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AN attempt has been made in this Essay to 
present in detail and in order all the valuable infor- 
mation extant as to the life and work of Thomas of 
London up to his consecration. It is a period of his 
career which has not received as thorough a treat- 
ment as it deserves at the hands of the modern 
historian. The archbishop has robbed the chancellor 
of his due. The interest taken in the life of Thomas 
has centred naturally in the conflict between the 
primate and the king, and the story of his earlier 
services in Church and state has been sketched in 
brief outline, except where the contemporary bio- 
graphers expatiate on a signal instance of his 
grandeur, or else it has been viewed too exclusively 
in the light of a sympathy or antipathy arising from 
a prior estimate of his subsequent position. It is 
only sixteen years since the late Regius Professor of 
Modern History at Oxford in his controversy with 
Mr Froude appealed in the pages of the Contem- 
porary Review for justice to the chancellor, and 
claimed a fuller investigation for his chancellorship. 
Much has been done since then in that direction, by 
Miss Norgate, for instance, in her England under the 


Angevin Kings, in which the figure of Thomas the 
chancellor stands out boldly in the historical fore- 
ground of Henry II.'s reign. But no monograph 
has yet appeared in response to Prof. Freeman's 
appeal. A second call has now come from the sister 
University in the list of optional subjects for the 
Prince Consort Dissertation of 1894; and this Essay 
is an answer to the call. It is an attempt to rescue 
the earlier half of the career of Thomas of London 
from its position of secondary importance and give 
it a chance of speaking for itself. 

It is difficult to be original in places where much 
of the ground has been covered so often already, but 
the attempt has been made, and, it is hoped, not 
without success. The subject-matter has been in- 
creased by the addition, from various sources, of 
fresh facts which are not found collected together in 
any existing account of Thomas' life. They will no 
doubt be recognised as they occur, e.g., in the details 
of Thomas' education, his ecclesiastical services as 
clerk to Theobald, and his judicial and financial 
work as chancellor. There was an obvious opening 
for originality in the method of arrangement, and it 
has been utilised, especially in the history of Thomas' 
chancellorship. This epoch in his life seemed to 
fall most conveniently under the different heads of 
military and diplomatic affairs abroad and judicial 
and financial administration at home, the question 
of his ecclesiastical policy coming last as an appro- 
priate introduction to the climax, his promotion to 
the primacy. This arrangement of course has its 
defects. The line cannot always be drawn sharply. 


Facts which fall primarily under one head have to 
be reconsidered under another from a different 
standpoint. The case of Battle Abbey, for instance, 
serves to illustrate both the position of the chancellor 
in the Curia Regis and his views of ecclesiastical 
privilege. Similarly the scutage of 1159 finds an 
appropriate place in more than one section. Its 
constitutional importance has to be noticed inciden- 
tally under the reforms of Thomas' chancellorship ; 
but it reappears for discussion along with the earlier 
scutage of 1156 under the head of ecclesiastical 
affairs, because its chief importance in his career is 
its bearing on his attitude towards the Church and 
her possessions. Still on the whole this arrangement 
seemed to give the clearest view of the chancellor's 

It now remains to acknowledge with gratitude 
the help that I have received in writing this Essay. 
My thanks are due to Bishop Stubbs and Mrs J. R. 
Green, and above all to Miss Norgate, for assistance 
in following out the question of perdona granted at 
the Exchequer; and to the librarian of the Owens 
College, Manchester, for the generous permission 
to consult or borrow works of importance from the 
College library, which is especially valuable from 
the fact that it contains the historical collection of 
the late Professor Freeman. 

June, 1894. 



(a) Biographies. 

William of Canterbury, vol. i. 
John of Salisbury \ 


vol. iv. 

" Materials 
for history of 
Eolls Series, 
No. 67, 
ed. Canon 

Alan of Tewkesbury J-, vol. ii. 

Edward Grim 

William Fitzstephen] . ... 

Herbert of Bosham J ' 

Auctor Anonymus I. 

Auctor Anonymus II. 

Lansdowne MS. 2nd fragment 


Thomas Saga Erkibyskups, vols. i, ii. Rolls Series, No. 

65, ed. M. Eirfkr Magnusson. 
Gamier de Pont S. Maxence, ed. Hippeau, Paris, 1859. 

(6) Letters (Materials, vols. v, vi, vii). 

Thomas, archbishop, Epp. 223, 224, 250. 
Theobald, archbishop, Epp. 7, 8. 
John of Salisbury, Epp. 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 194, 252, 263. 
Gilbert Foliot, Epp. 10, 15, 225. 
Arnulf, bishop of Lisieux, Epp. 1, 12. 
Anonymous friend of Thomas, Ep. 339. 
Clergy of the Church of England, Ep. 205. 
[Other letters of John of Salisbury are quoted from 
Dr Giles' edition of his works.] 


(c) Chronicles, records, and literary works. 

Gervase : Acta Pontificum Cantuariensium. 

Ralph de Diceto : Abbreviationes Chronicorum. 

Imagines Historiarum. 
William of Newburgh. 
Robert de Monte : Chronicou Normanniae. 
John of Hexham. 

William of Malmesbury : Historiae Novellae. 
Chronicle of Battle Abbey (Latin text, ed. Anglia 

Christiana Society, 1846 ; also Materials vol. iv, 

and Wilkins, Concilia, vol. i). Engl. translation 

by Mr Lower, 1851. 
Annals of Winchester. 

Historia Pontificalis (Pertz, Hist. German. Mon. vol. xx). 
Pipe Rolls : 2, 3, 4 Henry II. (ed. Hunter). 

5, 6, 7, 8 Henry II. (ed. Pipe Rolls Society). 
Charters of Stephen, Henry II. (ed. Stubbs). 
Dialogus de Scaccario (ed. Stubbs, Select Charters, 

pp. 168-248). 
John of Salisbury : Polycraticus and Metalogicus (ed. 



Lord Lyttelton, Henry II. vols. i, ii (ed. 1767). 

Lord Campbell, Lives of the Chancellors. 

Wilkins, Concilia. 

Foss, Judges of England. 

Madox, History of the Exchequer. 

Ducange, Glossary of Mediaeval Latin. 

Thierry, Norman Conquest, vol. ii (trans, by Hazlitt, 

Bonn's series, ed. 1885). 
R. Hurrell Fronde's Remains, vol. iv. 
Canon Robertson, " Becket, a biography." 
Dean Milman, Latin Christianity, vol. iii (ed. 1854). 


Dean Hook, Archbishops of Canterbury, vol. ii (ed. 


Hallam, History of the Middle Ages. 
Stubbs : Lectures on Mediaeval and Modern History. 
Constitutional History, vol. i. 
Select Charters. 
Early Plantagenets. 

J. A. Froude, "Life and Times of Thomas Becket " 
(Nineteenth Century, 1877 ; reprinted with modifi- 
cations in his Short Studies on Great Subjects, 
vol. iv). 
Freeman : Norman Conquest, vol. v. 

Historical Essays, 1st series. 
"Life and Times of Thomas Becket" (a 
reply to Froude, in Contemporary Re- 
view, 1878). 

Lingard, History of England, vol. ii (6th ed. 1855). 
J. R. Green, History of England, vol. i. 
Mrs J. R. Green, Henry the Second. 
Miss Norgate, England under the Angevin kings. 
Introduction to the Pipe Rolls. 

Father Morris, Life of S. Thomas Becket (2nd ed. 1885). 
Lord Tennyson, " Becket." 

Miss Lambert, " The real Thomas Becket " (Nineteenth 
Century, 1893). 




Thomas of London, 1118-1143 . . 1-26 

The Servant of Theobald, 1143-1154 . . . 27-56 

Thomas the Chancellor 57-75 

Foreign Affairs 76-95 

Judicial Administration and General Reform . 96-122 

Financial Administration . 123-152 





. 153-184 

The Chancellor and the Church 

Note A. Meaning of the word peremptorius . 184-187 
Note B. The Chancellor and the Battle Abbey 

Case . 187-190 

The Primacy 191-221 

Note C. The election at London (Thomas 

Saga) 222-224 


Character of Thomas of London .... 225-239 
Note D. "The real Thomas Becket" . 240-243 


The Biographers of Thomas . 

. 244-259 



THE uncertainty which attaches to so many His Mrth, 
incidents in the early life of " Thomas a Becket " 
to give him for once his traditional name has left 
room for conjecture at the very outset as to his 
birth and parentage. The place of his birth, it is 
true, is known for certain. He was a native of 
London 1 , where his parents had been resident for 
some time. Our information goes still further. He 
was born in the parish of S. Mary Cole-church 2 in 
the northern part of Cheapside, in a house which 
has now given place to the Mercers' Chapel. In 
that same church he was baptized after evensong on 
the day of his birth, the 21st of December, the 

1 Job. S. ii. 302 : Thomas Londoniensis urbis indigena. Will. 
C. i. 3 : ex Londoniarum civibus oriundus. Grim, ii. 358, men- 
tions a great fire on Thomas' birthday which began at his father's 
house and destroyed a large part of the city. Grim of course 
interprets it as symbolical of the influence of the archbishop in 
days to come. 

2 Dugdale, Monasticon, vi. 646 (ed. 1846). 

R. 1 


festival of S. Thomas, a coincidence which deter- 
mined his baptismal name 1 . These minor details 
have every appearance of certainty, but there is 
some doubt about the year. According to Herbert 
of Bosham 2 , Thomas was in his forty-fourth year at 
the time of his consecration in June 1162. This 
would give 1118 as the year of his birth. Gervase 
places his consecration in his fortieth year ; but the 
evidence of Herbert, the confidential friend of the 
archbishop, is more likely to be correct 3 . 
His name. The first real difficulty is suggested by the 
surname which tradition has attached to the simple 
" Thomas " of his baptism. His father's name, it is 
true, is given by more than one authority as "Gil- 
bert surnamed BecketV But it is very doubtful 

1 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 4. Dean Hook (Archbps. of Canterbury, 
ii. 356) refers to a grant of Henry IV. licensing a brotherhood of 
S. Katharine in connexion with S. Mary Cole-church, "because 
Thomas Becket and S. Edmund the archbishop were baptized 
therein" (Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 448). 

2 Herb. iii. 189. 

3 Benedict of Peterborough supplies corroborative proof of the 
date 1118. He says (ii. 19) that Thomas was in his 53rd year at 
the time of his death in 1170. As his birthday fell on Dec. 21, 
and he died on Dec. 29, it was his 52nd year that was completed 
in 1170. He was therefore born in 1118. 

4 Grim, ii. 356. Auct. Anon. n. iv. 81 : Gillebertus cognomine 
Beket. The name is also spelt Becchet, Beketh. Thierry (Norm. 
Conqu. ii. 53), who makes him a Saxon by birth but rich enough 
to associate with the Normans resident in London, thinks that his 
real name was perhaps Bek, and that Beket was a familiar 
diminutive by which he was known to his Norman friends and 
neighbours, just as Bekie was the Saxon diminutive current in 
ballad usage. But Robertson points out that Becket was itself a 
Norman surname occurring in the Eotuli Scaccarii Normanniae for 


whether that surname was usually borne by the son. 
In the twelfth century, at any rate in the earlier 
half of that century, surnames appear to have been 
still personal, not hereditary ; and the evidence is 
on the whole against the contemporary application 
of the surname Becket to the young Londoner. 
Roger Hoveden, it is true, in mentioning the appoint- 
ment of Thomas to the archdeaconry of Canterbury, 
styles him "Thomas Beket." And Edward Grim 1 , 
in describing the tragic scene within the cathedral, 
tells how the infuriated knights, clamouring for their 
victim, raised the cry, " Where is Thomas Beketh, 
traitor to his king and country?" But the arch- 
bishop was within hearing, and the surname may 
have been used contemptuously as a taunting re- 
minder of his origin 2 . As a matter of fact he seems 
generally to have been known and described at the 
outset of his career as " Thomas of London 3 ," and 
then, after the successive steps of his promotion, as 
" Thomas the archdeacon," " Thomas the chancellor," 
and finally " Thomas the archbishop." After his 
canonisation he naturally became " S. Thomas of 

1180, e.g. Manzer de Becket. The original word beck was "a 
remnant of Teutonic vocabulary" surviving in Normandy, e.g. 
the famous abbey of Bee. And the diminutive bequet or becket 
occurs frequently in Norman charters with the meaning of a 
little brook. (Robertson, Becket, a biography, p. 13.) 

1 Grim, ii. 435. 

2 Hook, ii. 356, is of opinion that the designation "Thomas 
the archbishop," "if it superseded, did not suppress the other 
appellative Becket." 

3 e.g. Gervase (A.D. 1154): dedit archiepiscopus Cantuariensis 
archidiaconatum cuidam clerico suo Thomae de Londonia. 



Canterbury," and such he remained for more than 
three centuries and a half. It was not until after 
the Reformation apparently that the name " Thomas 
a Becket 1 " forced its way into the prominence which 
it held, until a comparatively recent date, to the 
exclusion of all other designations. 
His It is round the parentage of Thomas that con- 

troversy thickens. The two points at issue are 

nation- (i) their nationality and (2) their social position. 
The former seems however by this time established 
beyond a doubt. The evidence at our disposal is 
quite sufficient to prove that the parents of Thomas, 
though Londoners by residence, were Normans by 
birth. It is true that M. Thierry in his history of 
the Norman Conquest, like Lord Lyttleton in his 
life of Henry II., has taken the opposite line. He 
has described Thomas as a Saxon of Saxons, and 
has allowed this assumption to colour his view of 
more than one phase in Thomas' career. Lyttleton 
dwells upon his promotion to the Chancellorship as 
the first instance since the Conquest of the elevation 
of an Englishman to high office, and has a warm 
word of praise for the generous and impartial policy 
which it betokened ori the part of a semi-foreign 
king. Thierry, starting from the same standpoint, 
accounts for the opposition of the " Anglo-Norman " 
bishops and barons, both at the election of Thomas 
to the primacy and throughout the conflict between 

1 The original authorities know nothing of the prefix a or a', 
as it is variously spelt. Robertson considers it a remnant of 
"vulgar colloquial usage." Hook retains it "as a distinction 
conventionally conferred " upon a popular hero of English history. 


the king and the archbishop, on the ground of 
Norman prejudice against a prelate of English 
origin, and this in spite of a remark of John of 
Salisbury which might have been intended to anti- 
cipate and refute any such theory 1 . 

The Saxon descent of Thomas was never more 
than an assumption, and it has given way, on a more 
critical study of the evidence, to the certainty of his 
Norman origin. The very names of both parents 
point to that conclusion, and it is placed beyond 
doubt by two explicit statements in the original 
authorities. One of the anonymous biographers 
says that they were among the Normans who were 
attracted to London after the Conquest by the 
advantages which it offered as a commercial centre. 
Gilbert, he adds, was a native of Rouen, his wife 
Roesa (Rose) a native of Caen 2 . The other state- 
ment is an incidental allusion made by Fitzstephen 
in his account of Thomas' introduction to Theobald. 
He attributes the young man's promotion partly to 

1 Job. S. Ep. 193 (ed. Giles), noted by Kobertson in the intro- 
duction to his biography of Becket : qui persequuntur in hac 
causa Cantuariensem episcopum, non hoc persequuntur quod 
Thomas est, quod natione Londoniensis...sed quod annunciat 
populo Dei scelera eorum. 

2 Auct. Anon. n. iv. 81. Other authorities give her name as 
Matilda (Grim, ii. 356) or Mahalt (Fitzst. iii. 14) or Machilde 
(Auct. Anon. i. iv. 3), evidently different forms of the same word. 
Bobertson, p. 15, by way of reconciling the discrepancy, ingeni- 
ously suggests that perhaps the grandparents of Thomas bore the 
names Gilbert and Roesa, and were the first of the family to 
settle in London, bringing with them a son Gilbert born in 
Normandy, whose wife was called Matilda. Thomas, it should be 
noted, had a sister named Eoesa (Robertson, App. xxx. p. 253). 


his father's previous acquaintance with the arch- 
bishop. In birth and rank, as Gilbert reminded 
Theobald, they had begun life upon the same foot- 
ing, both of them Norman in descent, and both born 
in the same neighbourhood, near a place called 
Thierceville 1 . The mistaken idea that Thomas was 
of English extraction seems to have arisen from the 
fact that he was " the first Englishman, in the sense 
of a native of England of whichever race," who rose 
to the primacy after the Conquest 2 . It is true that 
"in all but actual descent he was a thorough English- 
man," but it is precisely his Norman descent which 
points the moral of his career for the student of 
English national character. In fact the most im- 
portant point to notice in this connexion is simply 
this to quote once more Dr. Freeman's eloquent 
summing up of the whole question that, "Norman 
by descent, English by birth and feeling, proud of 
England as his native land, of London as his native 
city, trained by travel and study in other lands, 
but never losing his love for his native soil, trusted 
by the Angevin king, beloved by the English people, 
Thomas of London is the very embodiment of that 
blending together of Normans and English on English 
ground which was the great work of the twelfth 
century, and of which we feel the blessings in the 
nineteenth 3 ." 

1 Fitzst. iii. 15. Gilebertus cum domino archipraesule de 
propinquitate et genere loquebatur; ut ille ortu Normannus, 
et circa Tierrici villam, de equestri ordine, natu vicinus. 

2 Freeman, Contemporary Review, 1878, vol. 31, p. 835. 
8 Contemp. Rev. vol. 32, p. 499. 


Fitzstephen's allusion to the knightly rank of (2) their 
Gilbert and Theobald raises the question of Gilbert's position. 
social position. It is a remark not easily reconciled 
with the testimony of other authorities. The anony- 
mous biographer quoted above says that Gilbert's 
antecedents, like those of his wife, were respectable 
but belonged to the bourgeoisie 1 . And this state- 
ment seems to tally better with Thomas' own 
admissions towards the close of his life. In his 
reply to the famous letter of remonstrance in 1166 
from the bishops and clergy of his province, charging 
him amongst other things with ingratitude to the 
king who, as they declared, had been the maker of 
his fortunes 2 , he admits that his origin was com- 
paratively humble, " non sum revera atavis editus 
regibus " , but he reminds them that even before 
his introduction to the king he had held his own, 
and won an honourable name among all, of what- 
ever rank, with whom he came into contact 3 . In 
his letter to Gilbert Foliot bishop of London the 
prime mover of this remonstrance he is more 
specific in his language. Far from evading the 
reference to his parents, he frankly describes their 
position. They were, he says, citizens of London 
living peaceably in the midst of their fellow-citizens, 

1 Auct. Anon. n. iv. 81: honestam sed ex burgensibus originem 
duxit. ibid., uxorem...genere burgensium non disparem. 

2 Epist. 205 (v. 410). 

3 Epist. 223 (v. 499). The archbishop then proceeds to make 
capital out of the charge by drawing a bold parallel between his 
own rise and the elevation of the shepherd David to the throne of 
Israel, the fisherman Peter to the supremacy of the Church ! 


and " not exactly citizens of the lowest class either 1 ." 
This admission however need not be pressed to 
mean simply a denial of poverty, as though Thomas 
were unable to say anything further to their credit. 
The words may also be translated " by no means of 
the lowest class," but the shade of meaning makes 
only a very slight difference. It is more important 
to notice that the apologetic tone of the language is 
probably due in part to the fact that Thomas here, 
like his biographers* elsewhere, is contrasting his 
parents' position in life with his own subsequent 
eminence or comparing their status as members of 
the citizen-class with the status of the classes above 
them, the nobility. It is possible that Gilbert may 
have belonged to a collateral branch of a knightly 
family in Normandy; but it seems certain that he 
was engaged in commerce 8 in London before the 
birth of Thomas, and with more than ordinary 
success, for there is every indication that he was a 
man of means. Fitzstephen says that he was a 
citizen of the middle class who had held the office 

1 Epist. 224 (v. 515) : quod si ad generis mei radicem et 
progenitores meos intenderis, cives fuerunt Londonienses in medio 
concivium suorum habitantes sine querela, nee omnino infimi. 
The contrast suggested in the text above is Eobertson's idea 
(Becket, a biography, p. 15). 

2 e. g. Joh. S. ii. 302 : parentum mediocrium proles illustris. 
Will. C. i. 3 : majores radice sua ramos expandit. 

3 Auct. Anon. u. iv. 81 : in commerciorum exercitio vir in- 
dustrius, domum propriam pro vitae genere satis honorifice rexit. 
The same author describes him as one of the Normans who chose 
to settle in London, eo quod mercimoniis aptior et refertior erat 
quae frequentare consneverant. 


of sheriff of London 1 , not actually engaged in trade, 
but living in good style on an income of his own 2 . 
And this testimony to Gilbert's wealth is confirmed 
by incidental allusions to his hospitality, which 
barons and ecclesiastics did not disdain to accept. 

It is scarcely necessary to justify the rejection of The 
the story of Thomas' eastern origin, the legend 
which makes Gilbert a crusader and his wife a 
Saracen princess. The very picturesqueness of its 

1 Fitzst. iii. 14: natus ex legitimo matrimonio et honestis 
parentibus, patre Gileberto qui et vicecomes aliquando Londoniae 
fuit, matre Mahalt, civibus Londoniae mediastinis neque foener- 
antibus neque officiose negotiantibus, sed de reditibus suis honori- 
fice viventibus. The charter of Henry I. placed London on a 
level with the shires, giving it a sheriff and justiciar of its own, 
with the privilege of electing them itself. But in the Pipe Roll of 
31 Henry I. we find four sheriffs (vicecomites) accounting jointly 
for the ferm of London, and the citizens are mentioned as paying 
100 marks for the privilege of electing one sheriff of their own. 
Apparently they had been deprived of the chartered right of 
election bestowed earlier in the reign (Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 406 ; 
Select Charters, pp. 107, 108). 

2 Freeman (Contemp. Rev. vol. 31, p. 836, note) accepts 
Fitzstephen's statement that Gilbert was not engaged in trade, in 
preference to the evidence of Auct. Anon. n. But the facts of the 
case may perhaps be satisfied by supposing that Gilbert had 
retired from trade after making his fortune, and was living on the 
proceeds of property thus acquired. Froude (Nineteenth Century, 
1877), following Auct. Anon, n., assumed that "few Normans were 
to be found as yet in the English towns condescending to trade," 
and used the assumption apparently as an argument in favour of 
Gilbert's Saxon origin. In the reprint of this series of articles in 
his Short Studies on Great Subjects (vol. iv. p. 21), he omits the 
sentence quoted above, follows Fitzstephen, and adds a note 
questioning the authority of Auct. Anon. n. and ending with the 
casual remark that the Saracen extraction of Thomas is "a legend 
doubtless, but the Norman origin is unproved also." 


details has an air of suspicion, the crusader's vow 
of penitence, his capture in the Holy Land, the 
conquest and conversion of the Emir's daughter, her 
resolution to follow the prisoner whose escape she 
had planned, her lonely voyage with the magic 
password " London," the strange recognition in a 
London street, the solemn conclave of six bishops 
bent on satisfying the conscience of the orthodox 
Gilbert, the solution of the difficulty by the baptism 
of the fair heathen, her marriage, her husband's 
speedy departure for conscience sake to the Holy 
Land, and, last scene of all, his happy return to find 
his infant son growing in beauty and wisdom. The 
story has had firm believers, it is true, among 
historians of note until far into the present century. 
Thierry has fitted it into his sketch of the origin of 
his Saxon hero, though he is not certain whether 
Gilbert assumed the cross to fulfil a vow of penance 
or to carve out a fortune in the Christian kingdom 
of Palestine 1 . In the latter case, Thierry remarks, 
the Saxon adventurer was " less fortunate in Pales- 
tine than the squires and Serjeants of Normandy had 
been in England." The tradition furnished a fine 

1 Thierry, Norman Conquest, iv. 53. Sir James Mackintosh, 
admitting the possibility of the tale, though not quite convinced 
of its truth, makes Gilbert a pioneer of foreign trade ; others 
describe him as a pilgrim, others a gentleman travelling for love 
of knowledge and adventure. One writer mentioned by Robert- 
son J." G. Nichols goes so far as to place Thomas' birth at 
Acre, because the knights of Acre, the order of S. Thomas, took 
him for their patron saint. But Eobertson points out that the 
order was founded in commemoration, not of Thomas' birth, but 
of the capture of Acre in 1190. 


theme for the ballad poet 1 , and evidently found 
appreciative listeners and readers. But there is one 
conclusive argument against its acceptance. It never 
appears in the contemporary authorities for the life 
of Thomas. It only occurs as an interpolation in a 
later copy of Grim's life of Thomas printed in the 
first composite life, the Quadrilogus bearing the date 
1495, and as part of the chronicle assigned to John 
of Brompton 2 . There can be little doubt, if any, 
that the story is a later fiction, the outcome of 
popular imagination, which loved to cast a halo of 
Christian chivalry and Saracen splendour round the 
birth of its hero-saint. It is not the only legend 
that has to be rejected in connexion with Thomas. 
The process of legendary accretion began early in 
the cycle of contemporary biographers. His life had 
scarcely ended before its beginning had assumed a 
miraculous appearance. Stories are told of wonder- 
ful visions that immediately preceded or followed 
his birth, strange omens of his future greatness, 
which must have sorely bewildered his simple-minded 
mother, if they ever happened at all. Their credi- 
bility is very slight, and their historical value as 
illustrations of mediaeval life still slighter. But 
they certainly reveal in those early biographers an 
appetite for the miraculous which would never have 

1 An interesting specimen is given in full from Jamieson's 
Popular Ballads in Appendix iv. to Thierry's Norm. Conqu. vol. ii. 
p. 398 : 

"In London was young Beichan.born." 

2 Robertson, Introduction to Grim, vol. ii. p. xlvii. The story is 
printed in an appendix to Grim, ii. 451, and in Brompton (Twys- 
den, col. 1052 foil.). 


allowed the story of Matilda's eastern birth to pass 
unnoticed if it had been current in their day 1 . 
Educa- Thomas' education began with a careful training 

(Y^home at home as he grew from infancy to boyhood. He 
training, had a devout and pious mother, as keenly alive to 
the responsibility of his nurture as she was to the 
call of charity 2 ; and from her lips came his first 
lessons in godliness, as he often told his friend John 
of Salisbury in after days. She taught him diligently 
to fear God, and, next to his Saviour, to trust the 
blessed Virgin Mary 3 . His devotion was not un- 
rewarded, if we may believe his biographers in the 
matter of dreams and visions. Herbert of Bosham 
describes a vision of the Virgin Mary vouchsafed to 
Thomas in his boyhood. The lad lay fever-ridden 
on his sick bed, when a woman's form, "divinely 
fair and most divinely tall," stood by his side, and 
handed to him two golden keys with a promise of 
his restoration to health. " These are the keys of 
paradise," so spake the heavenly visitant, " of which 
thou shalt have charge hereafter." Herbert says 
that he heard the story from the lips of Thomas 
himself 4 . The fault of retrospective fiction, conscious 

1 Milman has worked out this argument from the silence of 
the early biographers in a forcible passage in his Latin Christianity, 
iii. 444, 445. 

2 Auct. Anon. i. (iv. 7) tells how the mother weighed her infant 
son from time to time against bread, meat, clothes, and money, 
all of which she then distributed to the poor. 

3 Joh. S. ii. 302. Auct. Anon. i. ibid. 

4 Herb. iii. 162. Whatever credit this story deserves, the 
quaint audacity of the legend in Hermann Corner's Chronicle (a 
work dating early in the fifteenth century) out-miracles miracle. 


or unconscious, which the incredulous reader will no 
doubt see here at work, is shifted therefore in this 
case from the adoring biographer to the archbishop 
in person. 

It is said that the fond parents had destined (2) Merton, 
their boy for the service of the Church 1 . At any 
rate his school life began under the shelter of a 
religious foundation. His father placed him at the 
age of ten under the care of the Augustinian canons 
of Merton in Surrey 2 . Their prior Robert appears 
more than once at a later stage in Thomas' career 
under circumstances which cast a pleasing light on 
these Merton schooldays. He was private confessor 
to Thomas, and bore testimony as such to the 
personal purity of the chancellor 3 . He attached 
himself to the archbishop from the day of his conse- 

It is reprinted by Eobertson (Materials, ii. 297), and is worth 
reproducing as a specimen of hagiography run riot. Thomas had 
chosen the better part, but at the new year when every one of his 
schoolfellows had received a gift from friend or lady-love, Thomas 
had none. He betook himself to prayer, and asked for a visible 
token of his lady's favour to display to his schoolmates. It was 
laid upon the shrine in answer to his prayer, with a prophetic 
command to use it when he became a priest. It was a casket 
containing a set of ecclesiastical ornaments! Herbert's story is 
sobriety itself in comparison with this later flight of imagination. 
The story is related in Thomas Saga (i. 23, 25), where the incident 
is placed at a parlement d? amour during his student days at Paris. 

1 Anct. Anon. n. iv. 82. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 14. This house was founded in 1115 by Gilbert 
Norman, sheriff of Surrey. In 1121 Henry I. gave it a charter 
and granted the manor of Merton towards the erection of a church 
in honour of the Virgin Mary. (Manning and Bray, History of 

3 Fitzst. iii. 21. 


cration as his chaplain and inseparable companion l ; 
and he was one of the two faithful friends who, 
when the monks of Canterbury fled on that cruel 
December day, stood along with Fitzstephen by the 
archbishop's side to the last and saw him die in his 
own cathedral 2 . On the other hand, Fitzstephen 
tells us, it was at the suggestion of Thomas the 
chancellor that King Henry II. visited and befriended 
the monks of Merton 3 . These allusions point irre- 
sistibly to a welcome trait in the character of 
Thomas ; they seem to prove at least his grateful 
recognition of past kindness. His old master had 
evidently won a firm hold on his respect and grati- 
tude ; and on the other hand there must have been 
something attractive in the lad, which did not lose 
its charm amid all the perplexing changes of his 
career, to keep the old prior close by his side to the 
very end. There is an interesting story attaching 
to this episode in the life of Thomas. It is recorded 
by one of the soberest of his biographers 4 , and may 

1 Fitzst. iii. 147 : capellanus et comes inseparabilis. It was 
Eobert who disclosed to the wondering monks the fresh proof 
of the murdered archbishop's hidden sanctity the haircloth worn 
next to his skin under the monastic garb. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 139. Edward Grim was the other. 

3 Fitzst. iii. 23 : cancellarii consilio dominus rex canonicalem 
ecclesiam Meritonae, ubi morantes Deum merentur, in gratiam et 
familiaritatem recepit. Henry completed the building and en- 
dowed the place at his own cost, and once at least, if not oftener 
(aliquando...celebrabat...visitabat), spent the close of Holy Week 
there in prayer and watching with his monastic friends, and 
visited the poor neighbouring churches to pray in secret, a 
mediaeval Saul among the prophets. 

4 Fitzst. iii. 14. 


well be genuine. Gilbert came to see him at Merton. 
The lad made his appearance, and the father bent 
low in humble obeisance to his son. The prior 
remonstrated on this reversal of the due order of 
things, but his objection was met by a quiet rejoinder 
from Gilbert : " I know what I am doing : that boy 
will be great in the sight of his God." 

From Merton the lad was removed to the schools (3) Lon- 
of London 1 , which had no mean reputation. Fitz- 
stephen gives a welcome glimpse of these institu- 
tions in the prefatory account of London with which 
his life of Thomas opens 2 . There were three schools, 
he says, attached to the leading churches in the city, 
and famous for their privileges and ancient dignity, 
though the list was sometimes extended to include 
other schools as a concession to the personal merits 
of an eminent teacher. On the ecclesiastical festivals 
which were observed as holidays, the magistrates 

1 Fitzst. iii. 14 : annis igitur infantiae, pueritiae et pubertatis 
simpliciter domi paternae et in scholis urbis decursis, Thomas 
adulescens factus studuit Parisius. Grim, ii. 359 : literarum 
primordiis puer traditur imbuendis. quibus decursis ad artes 
missus multa in brevi comprehendisse memoratur. Freeman 
(Contemp. Review, vol. 32, p. 120, note) takes 'literarum pri- 
mordia' to cover both Merton and London, and refers 'artes'' to 
Thomas' studies at Paris. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 4, 5: In Londonia tres principales ecclesiae 
scholae celebres habent de privilegio et antiqua dignitate. Ple- 
rumque tamen favore personali alicujus notorum secundum 
philosophiam plures ibi scholae admittuntur. Diebus festis ad 
ecclesias festivas magistri conventus celebrant. Hook (Archbps. 
ii. 609) takes magistri to mean the magistrates who visited and 
feasted the schools, but it may mean the masters who brought the 
schools to the place of meeting. 


visited these schools. The scholars gave proof of 
their training in logic and rhetoric by syllogistic 
disputations and declamatory speeches; and the boys 
of different schools met in friendly rivalry on the 
familiar ground of verse composition or examination 
in the "principles of grammar and the rules of 
preterites and supines." Free play was given to wit 
and humour ; jest and epigram flowed unchecked ; 
and masters and boys, great men and small, had to 
run the gauntlet of fun and sarcasm. It is a scene 
worth recalling, if only as the germ of two later 
institutions, speech day at school and degree day at 
the university. Fitzstephen's account of their re- 
creations is startling enough. One illustration must 
suffice. On Shrove Tuesday each boy brought a 
fighting cock of his own to his master; the school 
resolved itself into a cockpit ; and the whole morning 
was devoted to the spectacle of boys and masters 
intent on the death or glory of their crested favour- 
ites. " Nous avons change tout cela." After dinner 
the youths of London crowded to the suburban fields 
to play football. Students took sides according to 
their respective studies, city-officials according to 
their respective offices ; and the game waxed fast 
and furious in the sight of the city fathers who rode 
out to see the fun and wish themselves at school 
again 1 . 

Richer de It was about this time apparently that Thomas 

lAigle. ma( j e the acquaintance of a wealthy nobleman, 

Richer de 1'Aigle, who frequently stayed at Gilbert's 

house. There was nothing abnormal in this intimacy 

1 Fitzst. iii. 9. 


between the baron and the citizen ; for the citizens 
of London ranked on a level with the minor barons 1 . 
Thomas, during his temporary absence from school 2 , 
often accompanied his noble friend to the chase with 
hounds and falcons, and either developed or acquired 
that liking for sport which he indulged so freely in 
his chancellor days. On one occasion it nearly cost 
Thomas his life. He fell from his horse in taking 
a short cut across a narrow foot-bridge over a mill- 
stream which Richer had passed in safety, and was 
only rescued from a terrible death by the unexpected 
stoppage of the mill-wheel 3 . Thomas spent part of 

1 Hook, Archbps ii. 359, n. and 611, n. Fitzst. iii. 4: habita- 
tores aliarum urbium cives, hujus barones dicuntur. Cp. the 
language which William of Malmesbury puts into the mouth of 
Henry bishop of Winchester at the Council of Winchester in 
1141 : Londonienses, qui sunt quasi optimates, pro magnitudine 
civitatis, in Anglia, nunciis nostris convenimus. It is noteworthy 
that the French biographer Garnier calls Thomas' parents "baruns 
de la cit." 

2 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 6 : cum per dimidium annum a scholis 
vacaret. (1) It might mean during the holidays, but they would 
scarcely last half the year. (2) "At the end of the half-year" 
would not be exactly a translation of "per dimidium annum." 
(3) Freeman takes it to mean that Thomas was away from school 
for half a year at some particular time and so was thrown more 
into Bicher's way. 

3 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 6. The story is given in Thomas Saga on 
the authority of prior Eobert of Cretel (Cricklade), who wrote a 
life of Thomas in Latin (Thomas Saga, i. 32). The Saga repre- 
sents Thomas as attached to Richer at the close of his education 
in the capacity of secretary ; "Thomas becomes his notary and in 
his fellowship cometh for the first tune into the king's court amid 
courtly manners." According to Grim's version of the above 
accident (ii. 360) Thomas had plunged into the stream to save 
his hawk from drowning, and was carried away by the current. 

R. 2 


his time, it seems, in town with his father and part 
in the country with his friend the baron 1 . Richer's 
home was Pevensey Castle in Sussex, and perhaps 
it was this early introduction to the pleasures and 
pursuits of a country life which had something to do 
with the interest that Thomas afterwards took in 
the archiepiscopal manors in Sussex, particularly 
in the one at West Tarring, where the site of his 
menagerie and his brewhouse are still pointed out, 
and tradition still preserves the memory of Thomas 
the archbishop in the capacity of landlord 2 . 
(4) Paris. Thomas had not yet completed his education. 
From the schools of London he passed to the Uni- 
versity of Paris. His biographer simply states the 
fact of his residence there as a student 3 . Modern 

Freeman (Contemp. Rev. vol. 32, pp. 116, 117) identifying the 
anonymous biographer with Roger of Pontigny, and regarding 
this version of the story as perhaps originating with Thomas' own 
reminiscences, traces the growth of the miraculous element in the 
hands of Grim, who made the acquaintance of Thomas only a few 
days before his death, and would naturally view his early days 
through an atmosphere of the marvellous. Auct. Anon. i. iv. 6 : 
homo qui molendinum curabat, nihil penitus de his quae agebantur 
sciens, aquam subito a rota exclusit. But Grim (ii. 360) says: 
stetit rota nee se movit semel. In the earlier version the miller 
happens to stop the wheel at the right moment ; in the later the 
wheel stops of itself. "The providential delivery becomes a 
miraculous one." There is no wilful falsification; it is simply 
the natural, unconscious tendency of the hagiographer's mind. 

1 Grim, ii. 360. 

2 Hook, Archbps ii. 359, 360, refers to the Sussex Archaeological 
Journal and Warter's Append! da et Pertinentia for a full account 
of West Tarring and Sussex traditions relating to archbishop 

3 Fitzst. iii. 14. Thomas adulescens factus studuit Parisiis. 


historians have found a reason for the fact in his 
anxiety to get rid of the obnoxious English accent 
which recalled his Saxon origin 1 ; but this seems 
merely a gratuitous assumption which falls to the 
ground along with the theory of his English descent, 
by which indeed it was probably suggested. Very 
little is known of Thomas' student days in Paris. 
The Icelandic Saga is the only life that dwells upon 
this stage of his career. From that source (i. 22, 23) 
we learn that he composed " praises of our Lady both 
for private reading and for proses in the church," 
and wrote meditations on the Psalms. Two sacred 
compositions were attributed to him by general 
opinion Imperatrix gloriosa and Hodiernae lux 
diei. But this information, even if credible, is un- 
satisfactory. It only goes a little way, and that in a 
doubtful direction. The name of one fellow-student 
has been preserved in a mediaeval chronicle. Everlin, 

1 Thierry, Norm. Conqu. ii. 54, and Lord Campbell in his 
Lives of tlie Chancellors. Thierry makes Thomas utilise his 
Parisian accomplishments (to which the historian gives a very 
modern look) for the purpose of insinuating himself into the 
familiar friendship of a wealthy baron (evidently Eicher de 
1'Aigle), whose stud and pack he is permitted to use in the pursuit 
of "amusements forbidden to every Englishman who was not 
either the servant or the associate of a man of foreign origin." 
Milman (Latin Christianity, iii. 446), though absolutely free from 
the fallacy of the Saxon origin, seems to imply the same linguistic 
motive. "His accomplishments were completed by a short 
residence in Paris, the best school for the language spoken by the 
Norman nobility." It may have; been that, but it was consider- 
ably more than that, to judge from the picture drawn by Joh. S. 
Metalogicus, bk ii. Cp. Stubbs, Mediaeval and Modern History, 
p. 138. 



abbot of S. Laurence, Liege (1161 1183) dedicated 
an altar to S. Thomas in memory of their affection- 
ate intercourse when they were students together at 
Paris 1 . It is said that Ludolf, who became arch- 
bishop of Magdeburg in 1194, was once a pupil of 
Thomas at Paris, where he spent twenty years 2 . 
But it is hard to picture Thomas at his age playing 
"guide, philosopher and friend," or seated in the 
master's chair ; his stay in Paris was short, and ended 
before he reached man's estate. It is just possible 
that Thomas, like John of Salisbury, eked out his 
allowance from home by taking private pupils at 
Paris; but perhaps the chronicler made a mistake, 
and should have said that Ludolf and Thomas were 
fellow-students 3 . It would be tempting to hazard a 
similar conjecture with regard to John of Salisbury, 
whose twelve years of student life at Paris, so vividly 
sketched in the second book of his Metalogicus, 
began in 1136 and must have coincided with Thomas' 
briefer residence at the same seat of learning. But 
there seems no trace of any intercourse between the 

1 Hist. Mon. S. Laur. Leodensis (Materials, iv. 260, 261) : ex 
amore quern erga eum (Everlinus) habuerat cum secum studeret 

8 Bothonis Chron. Brunsvicensium (ib. iv. 261): ...Parys, dar 
wart he sunte Thomas van Kantelber scholer, unde was dar 
twintich jare. 

3 Eobertson (Materials, iv. 261 n.) mentions another name, 
Conrad bishop of Wiirzburg (murdered in 1202), who is described 
in an old MS. (in the Fontes Rerum Gennanicarum of Bohmer) as 
" contemporaneus et combursalis beati Thomae de Kandelberg in 
studio Parysiis." But, as Bobertson points out, the statement is a 
historical error. Conrad was not born till after 1153 the year of 
his mother's marriage. 


two friends until they met in the service of arch- 
bishop Theobald, whose secretary John became on 
his return to England in 1150. As with fellow- 
students, so with masters. The names of the par- 
ticular doctors whose lectures Thomas attended are 
not recorded. Of all the brilliant roll of eminent 
teachers that Paris boasted at this time 1 , not one 
can be specified with certainty as responsible for 
any part of Thomas' education. But there is one 
name that provokes conjecture. Robert of Melun, 
who was invited back by Henry II. to his native 
England at the suggestion of Thomas the chancellor*, 
and consecrated bishop of Hereford by Thomas the 
archbishop 3 , had " taught dialectic and the sacred 
page for more than forty years at Paris 4 ," where 
John of Salisbury had figured among his pupils. 
Thomas' student days at Paris must have fallen 
somewhere within that period ; and Robert's promo- 
tion to an English see is perhaps a second instance 
of a grateful tribute from a former pupil to his old 

1 Job. S. Metalogicus, bk ii. Stubbs, ibid. pp. 138, 139. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 24: cancellario Tboma suggerente pauperes 
Angligenas morantes in Galliis quos fama celebrabat bonos, vel 
monacbum in religione vel magistrum in studio, rex revocabat et 
tales in regno suo plantabat personas, ut magistrum Eobertum de 
Meliduno, in episcopali ecclesia Herefordiae. 

3 Herb. iii. 260 : Eobertum de Meliduno, et saecularium et 
sacrarum litterarum in scholis magistrum praeclarum...cujus et 
ille sacerdos magnus, de quo proximo sermo, prius consecratus, in 
scholis discipulus fuerat. This would be decisive if it referred to 
Thomas, but the 'sacerdos' seems to be Eoger (mentioned by 
Herbert on pp. 258, 259), newly consecrated by Thomas to the see 
of Worcester. 

4 Fitzst. iii. 60. 


master. Kobert of Merton and Robert of Melun 
may be parallels in more than name. 

The order of events at this point is by no means 
clear. Thomas' mother died when he was twenty- 
one ; but it is not certain whether her death occurred 
before he went to Paris or during his residence there 
or after his return. It has been suggested 1 that 
perhaps he was recalled from Pevensey by the sad 
news, and then decided, instead of returning to 
Pevensey, to complete his education in the schools 
of Paris. But this is after all mere conjecture. The 
scanty notices in the biographers point rather to his 
mother's decease as coming after his studies at Paris 
had begun. One anonymous writer says distinctly 
that it was his mother who had insisted upon the 
necessity of a thorough education, and that after her 
death his enthusiasm for learning subsided 2 . But 

1 Hook, Archbps ii. 361. Hook is inclined to regard Thomas' 
choice of Paris as due, partly to a disinclination for merely 
theological studies which kept him away from Oxford (then rising 
hi reputation as a theological school), but mainly to the social 
attractions which Paris offered in addition to the more solid 
benefits of dialectic, rhetoric, grammar, and divinity. 

Prof. Froude in his Short Studies (iv. 22) omits the Oxford 
career with which he credited Thomas in the original essay in the 
Nineteenth Century for 1877, and which drew down the scathing 
criticism of Freeman in the Contemp. Review for 1878 (vol. 32, 
pp. 118, 119). There is certainly not an atom of original 
authority for the statement, though Lingard (vol. ii. p. 56, 6th 
ed.) inserts it after the London schools (which Froude still ignores) 
and before the Parisian studies of Thomas. 

2 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 8: cum autem Thomas annum aetatis 
vicesimum primum implevisset, mater, quae sola ut erudiretur 
instabat, defuncta est, et ex inde circa studia Thomas se remissius 
coepit habere. 


there was another cause which might of itself have 
cut his stay in Paris short. His father had sustained 
loss after loss through fires in the city 1 ; and his 
diminished purse, if it did not necessitate his son's 
speedy return from Paris, seems at least to have 
made immediate work of some kind compulsory for 
Thomas on the completion of his studies. His Osbern 
twenty-second year was spent without definite em- eri/g of 
ployment 2 ; but at last, tired of his lonely mother- London. 
less home, he entered the service of Osbern Huit- 
deniers, a kinsman of his, a man of property and 
high standing in official circles as well as in citizen 
society 3 . For three years Thomas was busily em- 

1 Grim, ii. 359, places these losses before the mother's death. 
Parentes frequentibus incendiis ceterisque infaustis incursibus 
rerum non mediocriter atteuuati, minorem noscuntur in instru- 
endo filio diligentiam adhibuisse...Sed et filii desolationem gemi- 
navit interitus genetricis... Pater quippe senuerat nee ad filii 
sumptus sufficere poterat substantia quae remansit. Grim then 
goes on to mention liicher and his kindness to Thomas, and 
lastly the mill-stream incident. But this is evidently out of its 
place here, for Auct. Anon. i. iv. 7 describes the mother's joy over 
her rescued son. It must have happened in her lifetime. Grim's 
chronology is badly involved, to judge from the more business-like 
arrangement of the facts in other biographers. 

- Will. C. i. 3 : matre defuncta, sibi patrique relictus, quern 
incendia crebra civitatis attenuabant, vigesimum secundum an- 
num quern jam agebat otio impendit, et tandem civi vice tabellionis 

3 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 8: paternam igitur domum quasi vacuam 
et desolatam sublata matre fastidiens, ad quemdam Lundrensem 
cognatura suum, qui non solum inter concives verum etiam apud 
curiales grandis erat uominis et honoris, se contulit; apud quern 
ferine per trieunium cocsistens...etc. 

Robertson calls him a merchant; but Freeman doubts the 


ployed in keeping Master Eightpenny's books 1 . That 
is one account, but there is a serious discrepancy 
among the original authorities on this point. Fitz- 
stephen omits the name of Osbern, and simply says 
that Thomas on his return from Paris began to enter 
into the responsibilities of municipal government 
as clerk and accountant to the sheriffs of London 2 . 
John of Salisbury, whose life of Thomas only pro- 
fesses to be a brief summary of his career, throws no 
light upon the difficulty. He merely states that 
Thomas passed from the scholastic to the official 
world, and threw himself heart and soul into the 
round of business and pleasure with a vigour that 
outstripped all competitors, his only fault being an 
overweening passion for popularity 3 . Various at- 
tempts have been made to reconcile the discrepant 
details. Osbern, it is suggested, may have been a 

accuracy of the title. "No words are used of him which neces- 
sarily imply trade; and it is most important for a full under- 
standing of the true position of the London 'barons ' grasp 
the fact that many citizens were not traders and that many 
citizens were Normans " (Contemp. Review, vol. 32, p. 121). 

1 Grim, ii. 361 (the only Latin biography which gives the 
name) : ' Osbernus Octonummi cognomine.' The MS. reading 
was Octonumini; but the correct reading was suggested by 
Garnier's French life, which in one MS. describes Osbern as "dit 
Deniers" and in another "wit Deniers" (i.e. huit deniers). 

Grim speaks of Thomas as employed "in breviandis sumpti- 
bus reditibusque " of Osbern, who was "vir insignis in civitate et 
multarum possessionum." 

2 Fitzst. iii. 14 : reversus in partem receptus est sollicitudinis 
reipublicae Londoniensis et vicecomitum clericus et rationalis 

3 Joh. S. ii. 303 : liberalium vero discipliuarum scholas egre- 
diens ad curiarum se transtulit occnpationes. 


sheriff himself 1 or clerk to the sheriffs 2 ; in either 
case the two accounts will coincide, and the sphere 
of Thomas' work will have been one and the same. 
On the other hand, the two employments may have 
been quite distinct. Thomas may have passed from 
the desk in Master Eightpenny's office to the service 
of the municipal authorities 3 . But the main point 
to notice in any case is the importance of this stage 
in Thomas' career. It was his first introduction to 

1 Freeman, Cont. Rev. vol. 32, p. 121. 

2 Hook, Archbps ii. 362. 

3 Bobertson, Becket, a biography. Both Eobertson and 
Hook lay stress upon the political importance of the business that 
passed through the sheriffs' office. Froude, in his Short Studies 
(iv. 23), omits Thomas' employment under the sheriffs, and 
dismisses him vaguely on his return from Paris to a place "in a 
house of business in the city," apparently taking Osbern for a 
merchant and ignoring Fitzstephen's statement altogether. His 
whole treatment in fact of Thomas' early career is scrappy, 
eked out with a picture of the startling things that were happen- 
ing during his youth and may have come to his hearing. The 
sketch is apparently drawn from one or two biographers to the 
exclusion of the rest. In places he seems to have followed 
Grim's unmethodical arrangement. He has now omitted the 
remarkable statement (made originally in the Nineteenth Century 
for 1877) that Thomas "was left ill provided for to the care of 
his father's friends " by the death of both parents when he was 
still young, and was taken up by one of these friends, Richer 
de 1'Aigle, and sent to school at Merton Abbey and then to 
Oxford. But he still replaces Gilbert by Richer de 1'Aigle. " Gil- 
bert," he says, "survived his wife for several years, but appears 
to have left his son to the care of others, as he is mentioned 
no longer in connexion with him." He then proceeds to mention 
Richer's fancy for Thomas. But the idea that Gilbert neglected 
his son's welfare is surely contradicted beyond a doubt by Fitz- 
stephen's testimony to Gilbert's share in the introduction of 
Thomas to archbishop Theobald (Fitzst. iii. 15). 


questions of national interest. The citizens of 
London played no mean part in the contest for the 
crown between Stephen and Matilda. It was an 
education in itself to live at such a historical crisis, 
still more to occupy a position however subordinate 
in the service of men who were situated at the very 
centre of the conflict, and had a share in the making 
of their country's history. Such was the situation 
of the sheriffs of London whose service Thomas 
had entered 1 . It was an epoch in his life. To the 
intellectual training of the schools, and the social 
advantages of the baron's acquaintance, Thomas now 
added what was the coping stone of his education, 
a practical experience of the world of politics. 

1 Thomas entered the service of Osbern (according to Will. C. 
i. 3) at the close of his twenty-second year, i.e. at the end of 
1140, if his birth is placed, as seems most probable, in 1118. It 
is possible then, even if Osbern's office was distinct from that of 
the sheriffs, that Thomas was already in the employ of the 
municipal authorities at the time of the famous ecclesiastical 
synod of Winchester in April 1141 (described in detail by William 
of Malmesbury, Hist. Novellae) at which Henry bishop of Win- 
chester presided as papal legate, when Matilda was elected 
queen of England by the English clergy, when further decision 
was postponed to await the arrival of the Londoners who had 
been summoned by the legate's nuncios, and when the Londoners, 
on their introduction to the Synod, describing themselves as a 
deputation missos a communione quam vocant Londoniarum 
boldly requested the release of their lord the king. London, it 
seems, was already recognised in Stephen's reign as a comiminio, 
though it did not gain the legal status of a perpetual corporation 
before the reign of Eichard I. (Stubbs, Select Charters, pp. 107, 



FROM the close of his political apprenticeship in 
the sheriffs' office to the day of his consecration, the 
life of Thomas of London falls into two clearly 
marked periods, the earlier of the two spent in the 
service of Theobald archbishop of Canterbury, the 
latter in the service of king Henry II. Hitherto a 
close spectator, Thomas now became an actor in the 
busy scene, first as the faithful minister of the 
Church, then as the equally faithful minister of the 

The transition from the sheriffs' office to the 
archbishop's household was not so violent a change 
as at first sight it seems to us with our modern 
ideas of the division of labour between church and 
state. In those days the ecclesiastic was often 
merged in the statesman and sometimes in the 
soldier. Especially was this the case in England 
during the reign of Stephen. Two causes contributed 
to throw the secular and political influence of the 
day into the hands of the Church. It had a practical 


monopoly of talent; and it was the one stable and 
constant element in the midst of a kingdom given 
over to anarchy. Theobald archbishop of Canterbury 
and Henry bishop of Winchester were the two 
greatest powers in the country. Combined they 
were masters of the political situation; and the 
compromise which ended the battle for the crown 
in 1153 was the immediate result of their co- 
operation. It was not therefore an absolute change 
of life, a clean break with the past, for Thomas to 
cross from the service of the city magistrates to the 
service of the archbishop. New ties of friendship, 
new associations were formed ; new traditions and 
ideals inherited, new duties undertaken ; but there 
was one phase of his new position which recalled the 
old, and that was the diplomatic work of his new 
master, the primate's constant intervention in the 
struggle for the crown. The political crisis was still 
the same, except that it was viewed and approached 
from a different standpoint. Thomas was now to 
thread this "mazy labyrinth of events," as William 
of Malmesbury calls it, from the ecclesiastical side. 
Introduc- Thomas had spent something like three years in 
TT &* id ^ e mun i c ip a l service when his promotion came. 
The exact circumstances of his introduction to the 
primate's court are not clearly known. Fitzstephen 
attributes it to two brothers of Boulogne, Archdeacon 
Baldwin and Master Eustace, who were frequent 
guests at Gilbert's house on their visits to London 
and at the same time friends of the archbishop. It 
was at their joint instance that Theobald found 
Thomas a place in his household, though their in- 


fluence was apparently backed by a request from 
Gilbert himself, who laid great stress on the resem- 
blance, if not the connexion, between his own ante- 
cedents and those of Theobald, like himself a Norman 
by birth and a native of the neighbourhood of Thiersy 
in Normandy 1 . A very different account is given 
by one of the anonymous biographers. This writer 
says that a certain official of Theobald's household, 
who used to stay with Gilbert when transacting his 
master's business in London, and had watched with 
interest the fulfilment of Thomas' early promise, 
urged him to come to the archbishop's, palace. 
Thomas hesitated. He was not sure of the reception 
that might await an uninvited candidate for the 
primate's patronage ; but at last he yielded to the 
man's arguments, and was introduced by him to the 
archbishop himself, with whom he found favour at 
first sight 2 . It is not easy to harmonise the two 

1 Fitzst. iii. 15 : per duos fratres Bolonienses, Baldewinum 
archidiaconum et magistrum Eustachium, hospites plerumque 
patris ejus et familiares archiepiscopi, in ipsius notitiam intro- 
ductus: et eo familiarius, quod praefatus Gilebertus cum domino 
archipraesule de propinquitate et genere loquebatur ; ut ille ortu 
Normannus et circa Tierrici villam, de equestri ordine, natu 
vicinus. Horum, inquam, et patris introductu, archiepiscopus 
sui gregis scripsit Thomam. ' Loquebatur ' may refer to conversa- 
tions which took place during the early acquaintance of Theobald 
and Thomas, or it may refer to a reminder from Gilbert on the 
occasion of his son's recommendation. The words in parenthesis 
' de equestri ordine' may apply to Gilbert only ; otherwise another 
point might have been added to the resemblance, "and a member 
of the same social class, the knightly order." 

2 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 9. Cp. Grim, ii. 361, invitatus a quodarn 
ministro domus Theobaldi. 


accounts ; but perhaps the key to the solution lies in 
Fitzstephen's concluding statement that Thomas 
came to the primate's court at Harrow with a single 
companion whom he describes as an "armiger" 
Ralph of London by name. This man may be the 
" officialis quidam " of the anonymous biographer, and 
the "minister domus" of Grim's version. Thomas' 
original acceptance by Theobald may have been due 
to the recommendation of the two learned brothers 
of Boulogne and the reminder of his own father 
Gilbert, but perhaps his first actual appearance in 
person jat the archbishop's palace was made under 
the humbler auspices of the household official whose 
menial duties pointed the sarcasm of Thomas' rivals 
there. Roger de Pont 1'Eveque, we are told, fastened 
the epithet Baille-hache as a nickname upon Thomas 
himself 1 . 

Two of the other biographers deal with Thomas' 
motive in taking this step. Herbert of Bosham 
describes it as a deliberate choice on the part of 
Thomas. Unable to reconcile his religious professions 
with the views and practices of his lay masters, he 
decided to forsake his secular surroundings for a 
place in the service of some prominent ecclesiastic 2 . 

1 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 10 : aliquotiens palam in contumelias et 
improperia erumpebat, ita ut Thomam clericum Baille-hache 
plerumque vocitaret : sic enim cognominabatur vir ille cum quo ad 
ciiriam venerat. Cp. Grim, ii. 362, clericum cum ascia sive securi 
( = the clerk with the hatchet) faceta contumelia crebrius appellavit, 
cognomento videlicet illius, a quo ad curiam archiepiscopi fuerat 
invitatus. Gamier says, le clerc Baille-hache plusieurs fois le 

2 Herb. iii. 167. 


We might dismiss this assertion lightly as one of the 
many instances in which this diffuse biographer has 
read his own views of Thomas' saintly character as 
archbishop into the facts of his early career. But 
it is supported by a remark of John of Salisbury, 
a fairly impartial witness, judged by the frankness 
with which he admits the faults and failings of his 
hero. He credits Thomas already with the resolve 
to lead a religious life, and attributes his anxiety to 
enter Theobald's service to his disapproval of much 
that he saw in the life and conduct of the secular 
officials 1 . It is true that a marked change is recorded 
in his manner of life after his admission to the 
primate's household. He set himself soberly and 
resolutely to benefit by the society of those older 
and wiser men with whom he was thrown into 
contact 2 . But while we admit the sincerity of this 
motive, we are not bound to exclude the working of 
all other motives. The single eye is proverbially 
rare, and it is at least probable that the young 
layman, earnest-minded perhaps but certainly am- 
bitious, and not yet launched upon any permanent 
calling, was as fully alive to the fact that the surest 
way to eminence for a commoner lay through the 
Church as he was to the difficulty of living a religious 
life in a secular environment. 

1 Job. S. ii. 303 : cum vero in curiis procerum plurima contra 
honestatena cleri geri conspiceret, et convictum eorum proposito 
cui addictus erat perniciosius ad Theobaldum... 

2 Grim, ii. 361: ubi, ludis et levitate postposita, seniorum 
sapientiumque sermonibus ad meliora semper animum infor- 


The arch- His footing once gained, Thomas made rapid 
progress in the archbishop's favour 1 , and soon won 
his way to the front. The competition was keen, 
for Theobald had gathered round him the most 
promising ability of the younger generation. His 
court was a veritable nursery of talent, "a substitute 
in England for the as yet undeveloped universities 2 ," 
a training ground for future bishops and archbishops 
at home and abroad. Six years had yet to elapse 
before the arrival of the scholarly John of Salisbury 3 , 
the faithful secretary of Theobald, afterwards bishop 
of Chartres. But Richard Thomas' successor in 
the primacy was already Theobald's chaplain 4 ; and 
there were three young aspirants to fame, singled 
out by William of Canterbury for special mention, 
who made no secret of their ambition. Their names 
were Thomas of London, Roger of Neustria, and 
John of Canterbury, afterwards bishop of Poictiers 
and archbishop of Lyons. The two last-named lost 
no time in securing the goodwill and cooperation of 

1 Grim, ii. 361 : consiliis archiepiscopi negotiisque et causis 
publicis et privatis interesse jubetur. 

2 Stubbs, Mediaeval and Modern History, pp. 130, 142. 

3 John went, after his twelve years' study in Paris (1136-1148), 
to act as secretary or chaplain to Peter, abbot of Celles, and 
in 1150 was recommended to Theobald by S. Bernard (Stubbs, 
ib., p. 130). It was apparently late in 1143 or early perhaps in 
1144 when Thomas joined the little band of budding scholars and 
ecclesiastics under Theobald's care. He was born in 1118, and 
was twenty-two (Will. C. i. 3) at his entrance into the London 
offices, where he spent the next three years. 

4 Gervase, Chron. (quoted by Hook in his Life of Richard, 
Archbps ii. 509) : Theobald! capellanus effectus una cum beato 
Thoma eidem sedulo miuistravit. 


the favourite, and all three bound themselves by an 
ingenuous compact to help each other in the quest 
of preferment. One or other of the three was 
present at most of the primate's business, and each 
worked for the rest as well as for himself 1 . But 
this harmony of purpose was soon broken by the 
discord of jealousy. The worst offender seems to 
have been Roger, surnamed 'de Pont 1'Eveque 2 / 
whose contemptuous nickname for Thomas has been 
already noticed. His envy, ill-concealed at the out- 
set, broke out at last into open opposition. Twice 
on some pretext or other he procured the dismissal 
of Thomas from the palace. But on both occasions 
his triumph was short-lived. Thomas, conscious of 
his innocence, took refuge with the archbishop's 
brother Walter, then archdeacon of Canterbury, who 
was staying in the palace at the time, and, thanks 
to his intercession, regained to the full the favour of 
Theobald 3 . 

1 Will. C. i. 4: qui videntes eum in necessitatibus expediendis 
prudenter agentem et consilio providum, cum eo sociale foedus 
inierunt, condicentes ut in petendis sibi beneficiis ecclesiasticis 
suffragium suum communicarent. 

2 Eogerius (Eogerus) de Ponte-Episcopi is the name given by 
Auct. Anon. i. iv. 9, and Fitzst. iii. 16; cp. Grim, ii. 362. It 
is sometimes translated 'Bishop's-bridge,' but Brompton (Twysden, 
col. 1057) calls him a Neustrian; cp. Will. C. i. 3. Probably Pont 
I'lv6que in Normandy is meant. 

3 Fitzst. iii. 16 is the only authority for this twofold dismissal 
and reinstatement. Grim, ii. 362, and Auct. Anon. i. iv. 9 speak 
only in general terms of Eoger's jealous opposition. They style 
Eoger ' Cantuariensis archidiaconus,' and Milman follows suit 
(Lat. Christ, iii. 447). But Fitzstephen distinctly says, 'Walte- 
rum tune archidiaconum Cantuariae, postea episcopum Eoffensem.' 

E. 3 



tical ser- 
vices of 

studies at 

It is difficult to estimate exactly the extent or 
the value of the services which Thomas rendered to 
Theobald at home and abroad. The actual evidence 
at our disposal is only very slight. Thomas is rarely 
mentioned in the authorities for the reign of Stephen, 
but the omission is no proof of his inactivity. Judg- 
ing from the historical importance of those occasions 
on which Theobald is said to have found his help 
valuable, it seems quite permissible to infer that in 
other cases also, where he was not the agent em- 
ployed in the execution of a task, he was perhaps 
responsible for the policy adopted. He seems to 
have been Theobald's right hand, and it is quite 
possible, for instance, that during Theobald's informal 
regency 1 between the death of Stephen and the 
arrival of Henry (Oct. 25 to Dec. 20, 1154) Thomas 
had a considerable share in the transaction of current 
affairs of state. 

It will be convenient to deal first with Thomas' 
legal studies in Italy and France, though they may 
not have come first in the actual order of events. 
Fitzstephen states that Thomas, having obtained 
the archbishop's permission to go abroad, spent a 
year at Bologna and some time at Auxerre after- 
wards in the study of law 2 . John of Salisbury, 

It was not until 1147, the date of Walter's promotion to the see of 
Rochester, that Roger became archdeacon; whereas this double 
downfall and restoration evidently came soon after Thomas' in- 
troduction to the archbishop's circle. 

1 Gervase, 1376 (Twysden), describes the peace as kept 'nutu 
divino et cooperante Theobaldo Cantuariensi archiepiscopo. ' 

2 Fitzst. iii. 17 : tune impetrato (? impetrata) a domino suo 
archiepiscopo transfretandi licentia, per annum studuit in legibus 


while omitting all mention of time and place, is 
more definite as to the subject of these studies. 
They included both the civil and the canon law ; 
and he regards them as a providential training in 
judicial and educational work for the future primate 1 . 
But this visit to the home of the new jurisprudence 
was more than a finishing touch to Thomas' own 
training. It was part of a great legal movement in 
England which owed its rise to archbishop Theobald. 
A brief retrospect will make this clear. The separa- 
tion of the ecclesiastical from the civil courts of 
justice at the Conquest had thrown into the hands 
of the bishops more judicial work than they were 
able to discharge in person. The demand was met 
by the subdivision of their dioceses into archdeacon- 
ries, the archdeacon standing in the same relation 
to the bishop as the sheriff to the king. "'There 

Bononiae, postea Autissiodori. This notice, coming as it does 
between a list of his earlier preferments and the notice of his 
ordination and appointment as archdeacon, would seem decisive 
in favour of a later date for his foreign studies. The length of 
time given may include his stay at both places, or it may apply 
only to Bologna, leaving the length of his residence at Auxerre to 
conjecture. Hook (Archbps. ii. 363) makes it a shorter period. 

1 Joh. S. ii. 304 : ut vero in causis perorandis et decidendis et 
populis instruendis facultas a Deo praedestinato pararetur anti- 
stiti, juri civili et sacris canonibus operam dedit. Cp. Auct. 
Anon. i. iv. 10 : interim autem quantum licuit juri civili et sacris 
canonibus studium adhibuit ut per haec in causis perorandis seu 
decidendis (i.e. as advocate or as judge) instructior haberetur et 
ecclesiasticarum rerum notitiam plenius consequeretur. It is not 
clear whether ' quantum licuit ' refers to the time and opportunities 
at his disposal, or hints at the prohibition of legal studies in 



was a vast increase," writes Dr. Stubbs on Canon 
Law, "in ecclesiastical litigation, great profits and 
fees to be made out of it; a craving for canonical 
jurisprudence and reformed jurisprudence analogous 
to the development of constitutional machinery; 
and with it the accompanying evils of ill-trained 

judges and an ill-understood system of law The 

archdeacons were worldly, mercenary and unjust ; 
the law was uncertain and unauthoritative ; the 
procedure was hurried and irregular 1 ." The twofold 
need of regular procedure and substantive law 
seemed to be supplied about the middle of the 
twelfth century, the one by the revival of Roman 
jurisprudence, which was now being studied eagerly 
at Bologna and other Italian schools, the other by 
the codification of the canons which was issued in 
1151 by Gratian, a Benedictine monk of Bologna. 
A generation elapsed between these two movements 
in Italy, but they nearly coincided in their influence 
upon the English Church. It was Theobald who 
was responsible for their introduction. In 1149 he 
placed Vacarius at Oxford to teach the Roman civil 
law 2 ; and, nothing daunted by the royal opposition 

1 Stubbs, Mediteval and Modern History : ' Canon Law in 
England,' pp. 300, 301, closely followed in the sketch in the text 

2 Joh. S. Polycraticus, viii. 22 : tempore regis Stephani a regno 
jussae sunt leges Bomanae quas in Britanniam domus venerabilis 
patris Theobaldi Britanuiarum primatis adsciverat : ne qnis etiam 
libros retineret edicto regio prohibitum est et Vacario nostro 
indictum silentium. Theobald's household was the only "inn of 
court," as Hook remarks, for the lawyers of the new school 
(Archbps. ii. 337-339). 


which silenced Vacarius and the conservatism of the 
Church which suspected and resisted the new learn- 
ing, he set his heart on the foundation of an Anglican 
school of canon law as soon as the " Concordantia 
discordantium canonum" of Gratian made its appear- 
ance. Long before the close of the twelfth century 
Bologna was the recognised training school for the 
archidiaconate, which was essentially a legal and 
judicial office. Archdeacons in praesenti and arch- 
deacons in futuro, English and continental, crowded 
to its lectures 1 . Thomas, it is true, was not yet 
archdeacon of Canterbury, but he had already taken 
a subordinate part in the judicial labours of the 
archiepiscopal court 2 ; and it is more than probable 
that Theobald had kept Thomas in view long before 
the promotion of Roger to the see of York threw the 
archdeaconry open. Viewed in this light, Thomas' 
legal studies at Bologna and Auxerre acquire a new 
significance. They look like a definite provision 
on the part of the lawyer-archbishop for the reform 
of the judicial work of his see, for the improvement 
of legal education, and for the growth of the new 
ecclesiastical jurisprudence on English soil. 

The date of Thomas' residence at Bologna under 

1 Stubbs, Med. and Mod. Hist., p. 139 ('Literature and Learn- 
ing at the Court of Henry II.'), gives a graphic description of 
their adventures and temptations at Bologna. 

2 Grim, ii. 361, immediately after describing his reception 
by Theobald and his efforts at self -improvement, adds : cogni- 
taque in brevi vivacitate viri per verba prudentiae...consiliia 
archiepiscopi negotiisque et causis publicis et privatis interesse 
jubetur. This probably refers to the legal and judicial work of the 


the recognised master of canon law is not certain. 
Gervase places it after the diplomatic mission to 
Rome which resulted in the transference of the 
legatine office from Henry of Blois to Theobald 1 . 
But the date of this mission is another open question. 
It is not even certain whether Thomas' visit to 
Bologna preceded or followed the actual publication 
of Gratian's Decretum in 1151, but it probably falls 
in close proximity to that important event in the 
history of ecclesiastical law. 
Connexion With regard to Thomas' share in the inter- 
course between the Church of England and the 
Papacy during Stephen's reign, the two biographers 
upon whom we can best rely John of Salisbury 
and William Fitzstephen speak only in vague and 
general terms. We learn from them nothing beyond 
the fact that Thomas paid several visits to Rome on 
ecclesiastical business, and succeeded not only in 
carrying out Theobald's wishes but also in winning 
the favour and esteem of the papal court 2 . But 

1 Gervase, Act. Pontif. Cant. a. v. Theobald. Hook (Archbps. 
ii. 339), apparently converting the "post hoc" of Gervase into a 
"propter hoc" says: "the study of canon law seemed to be a 
necessary consequence of the introduction of the legatine jurisdic- 
tion." He might have gone further back: it was the natural 
outcome of the separate episcopal jurisdiction which the Church 
had exercised since the days of the Conqueror. 

2 Joh. S. ii. 303: quotiens pro expediendis necessitatibus 
ecclesiasticis apostolorum limina visitaverit, quam felici exitu 
quae sibi injuncta fuerant expedient, nequaquam dicta facile est. 
Cp. the similar language of Gervase (Act. Pontif. Cant.). John 
adds, by way of apology for this dismissal of the subject, that a 
detailed account is impracticable in a compendious summary such 
as his biography of Thomas is intended to give. Fitzst. iii. 16: 


from the evidence of one anonymous biographer, 
from incidental notices in the chronicles of the 
period, aud from the letters of Thomas himself, we 
are enabled to single out three distinct occasions on 
which he played an important part. The first of (l) The 
these was the transference of the legatine commis- 
sion from Henry of Blois, brother of king Stephen 
and bishop of Winchester, to Theobald himself 1 . 
This legatio was a standing difficulty in the way 
of the primate The 'legatus apostolicae sedis,' 
acting as the representative of the papal jurisdiction, 
which was at this time accepted de facto, even if not 
recognised de jure, by the bishops and the king, 
claimed precedence of the primate of England, and 
held ecclesiastical courts in England from which the 
appeal lay not to the primate but to the Pope. A 
deadlock was almost inevitable unless the legatine 
office and the primacy coincided in the same person 2 ; 

intellects mox ipsius industria, mittebat eum archiepiscopus 
aliquotiens Romam pro negotiis ecclesiae Anglorum; ubi, Domino 
favente, sapienter se gerens in plurimam summorum pontificum 
et sanctae ecclesiae Romanae gratiam receptus est. Evidently 
Thomas visited more than one of the succession of Popes from 
1143 to 1153. 

1 Joh. S. Epist. 89 (ed. Giles) calls bishop Henry's commission 
'primum legationis officium,' i.e. the first in England during 
Stephen's reign. William of Malmesbury (Hist. Nov. ii. 22) fixes 
its date: Theobald was consecrated in January, 1139, and 
Henry was appointed legate early in March that same year. 

3 The archbishop of Canterbury was the obvious person to 
represent the papal authority, to whatever extent it was exercised 
or acknowledged, in England ; but it was part of the Roman 
policy to reserve the alternative of appointing a special 'legatus a 
latere,' such as Winchester in this case, to supersede the ' legatus 
natus,' as the archbishop might be styled (Hook, Archbps. ii. 341). 


and the deadlock came. Gervase of Canterbury 
our sole authority for Thomas' share in the matter 
says that Henry of Blois pushed his rights as legate 
too far. He daily cited his fellow-bishops and his 
own archbishop to attend upon him in his capacity 
of papal legate. Theobald at last refused to submit 
to such claims and took steps to reverse the position. 
Aided by the efforts of ' Thomas a clerk of London,' 
says Gervase, he so managed the matter with Pope 
Celestine II. (who had succeeded Innocent II., the 
original source of this particular commission) that 
Henry was removed from his legatine office and 
Theobald substituted. Hence arose bitter disputes 
and appeals on either side. That is Gervase's 
account 1 . But his chronology is doubtful. Celes- 

After the public indignation roused by the conduct of John of 
Crema, the 'legatus a latere' in England in 1125, William 
Corbeuil, archbishop of Canterbury, solved the difficulty of exercis- 
ing the papal jurisdiction without offending the national spirit of 
the English Church by accepting the formal 'legatio' himself. 
Theobald now procured the same official recognition, partly to 
secure his own precedence over the rival archbishop of York, 
partly to thwart the ambition of the scheming prelate of Win- 
chester. The Winchester annalist under the year 1143 describes 
the continual disagreement between the legate and the primate 
briefly but forcibly: iste enim major videri voluit quam archiepi- 
scopus, ille quam legatus. Winchester's schemes for the exaltation 
of self and see are given in detail by the writer of the Historia 
Pontificalis (Pertz, xx. 542) : elaborare coepit ut ei pallium daretur 
et fieret archiepiscopus occidentalis Angliae, vel ut ei legatio 
regni concederetur, vel saltern ut ecclesia sua eximeretur a 
jurisdictione Cantuariensis. The Pope refused his requests. 
Winchester was not erected into an archbishopric, Henry was not 
reappointed papal legate in England, and his see was not eman- 
cipated from the jurisdiction of Canterbury. 
1 Gervase (Act. Pontif. Cant. s. v. Theobald). 


tine II. was Pope from September 1143 to March 
1144, while the first notice of Theobald's legatio 
occurs some seven years or more after this date. 
Henry may have ceased to be legate at the time 
stated by Gervase ; perhaps, if his commission ex- 
pired with Innocent II., the Pope who granted it, 
Theobald and Thomas may have prevented its re- 
newal by Innocent's successors 1 . But Theobald 
himself is not styled papal legate by Gervase or 
Henry of Huntingdon till the year 1151. That is 
at all events the date assigned to the council sum- 
moned at London by Theobald as "archbishop of 
Canterbury and legate of the Apostolic See 2 ," a 

1 John of Hexham under A.D. 1144 remarks that Celestine, 
who was prejudiced against Stephen by his own early Angevin 
associations, took a dislike to Henry, bishop of Winchester. 
The same writer notes under A.D. 1145 that Henry fared better in 
winning the favour of the next Pope, but nevertheless did not 
continue to hold the office and title of legate. Evidently the 
commission had lapsed; it is hardly likely that, if it had been 
withdrawn by a definite act on the part of Celestine, the chronicler 
would have omitted to mention such an important fact. 

On the supposition that Thomas was born in 1121 (1122), 
Celestine's papacy would have been past and gone before Thomas 
in his twenty-fifth year was introduced to Theobald, i.e. 1146. If 
we accept the more probable date for his birth, 1118, and so place 
his introduction to Theobald late in 1143 or early in 1144, it will 
fall within the limits of Celestine's papacy; but it is scarcely 
possible that Theobald would have employed Thomas on such 
a confidential mission so soon after his entrance upon his new 
service. Inett (Orig. Angl. ii. 203) on the former supposition 
places Thomas' mission to Borne in the papacy of Lucius II. 
(1144-1145) or Eugenius III. (1445-1153). 

2 Gervase (Act. Pontif. Cant. s. v. Theobald). Wilkins (Gone. 
i. 424) dates the council 1151. Lyttelton, i. 358, notes the 
fact that Lucius II. sent a cardinal legate into England as an 


council at which Stephen and his son Eustace were 
both present, and the discussion was broken by new 
and unaccustomed appeals, partly no doubt the 
expression of Winchester's disappointment. 
(2) Council The second occasion on which Thomas comes out 
" clearly as the faithful servant of Theobald in his 
negotiations with the Papacy was the council held 
at Reims by Eugenius III. in 1148 1 . The objects 
of the council, though nominally ecclesiastical, bor- 
dered closely on the political. One of the questions 
for settlement was the validity of the election of 
William, Stephen's nephew, to the see of York, an 
election which Eugenius had declared void on the 
ground that it was carried by Stephen's nomination. 
Stephen rose to the occasion. He met the papal 
summons to this council with a royal prohibition 
which kept all the English bishops at home, except 
three sent by Stephen to explain the absence of the 
rest. But Theobald went in defiance of his lord the 
king. With Thomas in attendance, he stole across 
the Channel at the risk of shipwreck, and earned the 
warm thanks of his friend the Pope for a journey 

indication that Theobald was not yet in possession of the legatine 
office. Stubbs (Const. Hist. i. 330, note) attributes the commis- 
sion of Theobald to Eugenius III. "who acted under the adyice of 
S. Bernard and was generally opposed to Stephen," and dates the 
grant in or before the year 1150. 

1 The writer of the Historia Pontificalis (possibly John of 
Salisbury) gives the list of persons present at the Council of 
Eeims. " Affuerunt etiam bonae memoriae Theobaldus Cantuari- qui adhuc supersunt Thomas Cantuariensis et Bogerus 
Eboracensis archiepiscopi " (Pertz, xx. 523). Koger was at the 
time archdeacon of Canterbury (1147-1154). 


which, as Eugenius wittily remarked, had been 
"more of a swim than a sail." We have Thomas' 
own evidence directly and indirectly for the fact of 
Theobald's visit to Rome. In a letter written in 
1166 to Cardinal Boso (an old acquaintance, as we 
learn from this very letter, whom he had introduced 
to Theobald), he mentions this incident as a signal 
proof of the loyalty of Canterbury to Rome at all 
costs 1 . And Herbert of Bosham says that in his 
defence before Pope Alexander III. and his cardinals 
at Sens in 1164, Thomas cited Theobald's fearless 
escape to Reims in defiance of king Stephen as a 
justification of his own flight from England in 
defiance of king Henry 2 . The council adopted the 
resolution of Eugenius confirming the deposition of 
William from the see of York and electing Henry 

1 Epitt. 250 (vi. 57, 58): bis a sede et patria pro fide et 
obedientia exclusus est, rege Stephano hoc in eo persequente, 
quod contra prohibitionem ejus vocatus a domino papa Eugenio 
ad concilium Kemense venerat, ceteris episcopis domi contra 
obedientiam remanentibus, exceptis tribus qui de mandato regis 
venerunt ut aliorum absentiam excusarent. The second occasion 
was Theobald's refusal to crown Eustace in 1152. In this letter 
Thomas himself gives the ipsissima verba of the witticism of 
Eugenius, ut verbis ejus utamur, "natando potius quam navi- 
gando venerat" (vi. 58). It reappears in Herbert's version of 
Thomas' defence, but shorn of its alliterative vigour, " magis 
natando quam remigando." 

* Herb. iii. 356 : et ita pater meus hie ob causam fugit tune 
sicut et nunc ego. Herbert puts a vivid description into the 
mouth of Thomas, who, as he calls himself the 'comes individuus' 
of Theobald in that adventure, would no doubt give the conference 
at Sens the full benefit of his recollections. The passage was 
made stealthily by night, with two or three followers unused 
to the sea, in a little boat, 'quasi absque nauclero et remigio.' 


Murdac, abbot of Fountains, in his place. Apparently 
also it was on this occasion that Theobald and 
Eugenius began to lay their plans for the accession 
of Henry of Anjou by way of retaliating upon 
Stephen, who had offended the primate by support- 
ing his brother Henry's appeal to Rome for the 
renewal of his legatine commission, and had lost the 
favour of the Pope by upholding the claims of his 
nephew William to the see of York 1 . Theobald 
however paid dearly for his disloyalty. His suffragans 
were suspended by Eugenius for absenting them- 
selves from the council ; but Stephen punished the 
archbishop by confiscating his property and forcing 
him into temporary exile from England 2 . There is 
one other notice which perhaps should be referred 
to this event. It is very probable, though not 
certain, that the Council of Reims is the occasion 
described by the anonymous biographer who is 
identified by some modern authorities with Roger of 
Pontigny. He says that Theobald had occasion " to 
visit the Roman Church," and took with him in his 
retinue the faithful Thomas, whose services he found 
so valuable on the journey and in the execution of 
his plans that he rewarded him on his return with 
the living of Otford, and afterwards employed him 
more than once to transact ecclesiastical business at 
Rome 3 . 

1 Lyttelton, Henry II. (vol. i. p. 320). 

2 Ralph de Diceto, Hist. Archiep. Cant. (s. v. Theobald), and 
Abbreviationes Chronicorum (i. 362, Rolls Series). 

3 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 10 : exstitit causa qua Cantuariensis 
antistes Theobaldus Romanam ecclesiam visitare disposuit. 


One other crisis is recorded in which Thomas (3) Papal 

. . , prohibi- 

comes to the front. He is said to have been t i n of 
Theobald's agent in procuring the papal veto which 
forbade the coronation of Stephen's son Eustace. 1152. 
Gervase gives the following brief account of the 
incident. Stephen summoned bishops and nobles to 
an assembly at London, and requested their consent 
to his son's coronation. The archbishop of Canter- 
bury was opposed to the project, and on the with- 
drawal of the bishops, who refused to commit 
themselves, prudently departed for Canterbury and 
crossed from Dover to the Continent. Stephen 
confiscated the temporalities of his see, but Eustace 
lost the crown which his father coveted for him. 
The whole of this affair was the work of the subtle 
foresight of a certain Thomas, a clerk, a Londoner by 
birth, says Gervase in conclusion 1 , though he does 
not specify the steps taken by Thomas to procure 
the desired result. A fuller light however is cast 
upon the transaction by the Historia Pontificalis, a 
valuable fragment of ecclesiastical history which 
may perhaps have come from the pen of John of 
Salisbury 2 . From this record we learn that Henry, 

Robertson, in a foot-note on this passage, takes it to refer to 
the Council of Reims. There is one difficulty in the way of this 
explanation. The writer proceeds: profectusque est, ut dignum 
erat, cum honesto et copioso comitatu, assumpto etiam secum 
Thoma, etc. This is scarcely reconcilable with the pitiful story of 
the voyage told by Thomas in Herbert, iii. 356. 

1 Gervase (Act. Pontif. Cant. s. v. Theobald) : subtilissima 
providentia et perquisitione cujusdam Thomae clerici natione 

2 Stubbs, preface to R. de Diceto, i. xxiv. (Rolls Series). 


archbishop of York, now reconciled to Stephen, 
promised to exert his influence to procure the papal 
sanction for the coronation of Eustace. This sanction, 
as the chronicler remarks, was considered indispens- 
able. The validity of Stephen's title, he adds, had 
been questioned more than once on the ground that 
he had won the crown in 1135 by breaking the oath 
of allegiance to the empress which had been exacted 
from him by Henry I. l . The case had already been 
discussed before the papal court in the days of 
Innocent II. On that occasion Matilda's claim was 
represented by Ulger, bishop of Anger, while Stephen's 
interests were defended by Roger, bishop of Chester, 
Lupellus, a clerk who had been in the service of 
William (Theobald's predecessor in the see of Canter- 
bury, who had consecrated Stephen), both specially 
despatched by Stephen for the purpose, and Arnulf, 
afterwards bishop of Lisieux. Innocent cut the 
matter short. In defiance of the advice of his 
cardinals and in consequence of a bribe from Stephen, 
he wrote a letter to the king confirming his title to 
the crown of England and the duchy of Normandy". 

1 Hist. Pontif. (Pertz, Mon. German. Hist. xx. 542) : Henricus 
Eboracensis archiepiscopus, cum Stephano rege Anglorum faciens 
pacem, promisit se daturum operam et diligentiam ut apostolicus 
(i.e. Eugenius, to whom Henry owed his promotion to York) 
Eustachium filium regis coronaret. Quod utique fieri non licebat 
nisi Eomani pontificis venia impetrata. Itegi enim saepe quaestio 
mota fuerat super usurpatione regni, quod contra sacramentum 
Henrico regi praestitum dinoscitur occupasse. Querimoniam 
imperatricis ad paparn Innocentium Ulgerius detulit, etc. 

2 Hist. Pontif. ib. p. 543: non tulit ulterius contentiones 
eorum dominus Innocentius, nee sententiam ferre voluit aut 


Afterwards his successor Celestine, who as Cardinal 
Guido had headed the opposition to Innocent's 
decision, reversed it in favour of the empress, and 
wrote to archbishop Theobald forbidding any change 
in the succession to the crown, as its transference to 
Stephen had been duly condemned. His successors 
on the papal throne, Lucius (1144-1145) and 
Eugenius (1145-1153), renewed the prohibition. 
Consequently the archbishop of York was unable to 
obtain the consent of the Pope to the coronation of 

causam in aliud differre tempus, sed contra consilium quorumdam 
cardinalium et maxime Guidonis presbyteri Sancti Marci, receptis 
muneribus regis Stephani, ei familiaribus litteris regnum Angliae 
confirmavit et ducatum Normanniae. Arndt (the editor of the 
Histona Pontificalis in Pertz' collection) prints this passage in 
italics as the conclusion of Ulger's reply to Arnulf. This is 
surely a mistake. The passage is evidently part of the narrative, 
a statement from the chronicler's own pen ; for he proceeds : 
Ulgerius vero cum cognition! causae supersederi videret, verbo 
comico utebatur, dicens, "de causa sua querentibus intus de- 
spondebitur," et adjiciebat, "Petrus enim peregre profectus est, 
nummulariis relicta domo," a telling sarcasm directed against 
the venality of Innocent's procedure. 

1 Hist. Pontif. ib. p. 543 : postea cum praefatus Guido cardi- 
nalis promoveretur in papam Celestinum, favore imperatricis 
scripsit domino Theobaldo Cantuariensi archiepiscopo inhibens ne 
qua fieret innovatio in regno Angliae circa coronam, quia res erat 
litigiosa cujus translatio jure reprobata est. Successores ejus 
papa Lucius et Eugenius eandem prohibitionem innovaverunt. 
Unde contigit ut praefatus Eboracensis archiepiscopus promo- 
tionem Eustachii non potuerit impetrare. Arndt prints the 
passage from postea to innovaverunt in italics, apparently attribut- 
ing it to Ulger, whose jest it follows in the text. But this 
cannot be right. The passage deals with events that happened 
years after the trial of the case before Innocent in 1135. Celes- 
tine II. was Pope from Sept. 1143 to March, 1144. 


Such is briefly (omitting the arguments of Arnulf 
and Ulger before the papal court under Innocent) 
the account given in the Historia Pontificalis 1 . 
Thomas is not mentioned at all. Nor does he 
mention his own share in the transaction in the 
letter to Cardinal Boso already quoted in reference 
to the Council of Reims 2 . He alludes to Theobald's 
refusal to crown Eustace a refusal based on the 
papal prohibition but there is not a word of allusion 
to his own services. The omission may perhaps be 

1 The case is discussed by Freeman, Norman Conquest, vol. v. 
App. DD. p. 857. I hesitate to contradict such an authority as 
the late Professor Freeman, but he seems to me to have misread 
the Historia Pontificalis. He quotes this collision between Ulger 
and Arnulf before Innocent as having taken place at the time 
when Stephen was trying to procure the papal consent to Eustace's 
coronation. In other words, he regards the whole passage 
(pp. 542, 543) as referring to the discussion of the case in 1152. 
But the date of the trial described on pp. 542, 543 is fixed by the 
fact that the letters of confirmation despatched to Stephen on the 
conclusion of the case are assigned by John of Hexham and 
Kichard of Hexham to the year 1136. All the evidence points to 
the early date of this trial. Innocent died in 1143, Boger of 
Chester in 1148 (Bobt. de Monte, A.D. 1148). The whole passage 
is really a retrospective account of the history of the dispute from 
Stephen's accession in the time of Innocent to the time of 
Eugenius, when Henry of York, who owed his see to Eugenius 
(Joh. Hexh. A.D. 1148, Gervase, A.D. 1147), offered his services to 
Stephen and went to Borne in person to ask Eugenius' consent to 
Eustace's coronation (Joh. Hexh. A.D. 1152). We therefore know 
practically nothing of the negotiations of 1152. 

2 Epist. 250 (vi. 57) : alia autem, ut scitis, causa persecutionis 
ejus exstitit quod contra prohibitionem Bomanorum pontificum 
filium regis Eustachium noluit corouare. The plural pontificum 
is explained by the evidence of the Historia Pontificalis. It 
includes Celestine II., Lucius II., and Eugenius III. 


explained by the supposition that he is only dealing 
there with one aspect of the case. Throughout the 
letter it is Theobald's loyalty to Rome in opposition 
to Stephen that he is dwelling upon as a precedent 
for his own resistance as archbishop to the policy of 
Henry II. He does not mention his own association 
with Theobald in the adventurous journey to Reims, 
which is the first instance that he cites in proof of 
Theobald's devotion to Rome; yet we know from 
other sources that he was in attendance upon Theo- 
bald on that occasion. The omission of his own 
name is therefore no proof of his inactivity in the 
matter. The fact however remains that the vague 
language of Gervase is our only clue to Thomas' 
action in 1152. He may have been merely respons- 
ible for the suggestion that the necessity of the 
papal sanction to the coronation of Eustace opened 
the way for a decisive check upon Stephen's am- 
bition. He may only have insisted on referring the 
question to Rome in view of the prohibition already 
issued by Celestine II. and renewed by Lucius II. 
In other words, it may have been his insistence on 
this point that called forth Henry of York's offer to 
mediate between the king and the Pope. Or he 
may have done more ; he may have actually gone to 
Rome on Theobald's behalf to oppose the petition of 
the rival archbishop. His biographers speak of 
several visits to the papal court 1 ; this was perhaps 

1 Fitzst. iii. 16 : mittebat eum archiepiscopus aliquotiens 
Eomam pro negotiis ecclesiae Anglorum. Job. S. ii. 303: 
quotiens apostolorum limina visitaverit, etc. Auct. Anon. i. iv. 10: 
postea vero (i.e. after the visit to Rome or Reims in company with 

R. 4 


one of the occasions which they dismiss en bloc with 
such disappointing brevity. Lyttelton, taking the 
visit as a fact, enlarges upon the difficulty of the 
task which Thomas had accomplished at Rome. 
Stephen, he remarks, was in ill odour at the papal 
court, but still there were serious obstacles in the 
way of Theobald's plan for the succession of Henry 
of Anjou. On the one hand, Stephen's election had 
been ratified by the papal see in the person of 
Innocent II. in 1130; on the other hand, Henry, 
coining as he did of a family that had shown scant 
respect for ecclesiastic authority, scarcely seemed a 
likely king to tolerate any papal encroachment upon 
the prerogatives of the English crown. The success 
therefore of Thomas' negotiations in the face of such 
difficulties speaks highly for his diplomatic skill 1 . 
But the evidence of the Historia Pontificalis proves 
that the obstacle presented by Innocent's ratification 
of Stephen's title had already been removed by the 
action of his successors in prohibiting the permanent 
transference of the crown to the line of Blois ; and 
the danger of high-handed policy on the part of the 
young duke of Anjou was to say the least hypothetical 
at this stage of affairs. 

Stephen did everything in his power to reverse 
the decision of the Roman Curia. Theobald was 
inflexible, and Roger, archdeacon of Canterbury, 
Thomas' old rival, was sent to Rome on behalf of the 

Theobald) aliquotiens ecclesiasticorum negotiorum causa eum 
Eomam direxit (Theobaldus), in omnibus ejus industriam merito 
collaudandam experiens. 

1 Lyttelton, Henry II. vol. ii. pp. 20, 21. 


king and his partisans to get the papal prohibition 
withdrawn 1 . But his efforts were all in vain; and 
Stephen's persecution of Theobald, as Thomas calls 
it, was met by a papal sentence of excommunication 
against the king and an interdict on the whole 
country, to be carried into execution by all the 
bishops, which terrified Stephen into reluctant 
acquiescence 2 . 

The precise share, however, which Thomas had 
in the confirmation of Henry's claim to the English 
crown (for that was the practical result of the failure 
of Stephen's project in 1152) cannot be determined. 

1 Thomas himself states the fact in his letter to Boso, Epist. 
250 (vi. 58): nonne recolitis quomodo ille qui nunc Eboracensis 
est Eomam profectus sit, regis illius et procerum procurans 
negotium, ut, quia Cantuariensem archiepiscopum non poterant 
flectere, saltern prohibitions apostolicae solutionem a domino 
papa Eugenio impetrarent? Thomas does not spare his old 
opponent, whom he accuses of deliberately fomenting the enmity 
between Theobald and Stephen, as he afterwards did between 
Thomas and Henry II. In the preceding sentence he writes, et 
quosdam eorum qui nos persequuntur ille rex habuit hujus fomitis 

2 Epist. 250 (vi. 59): nam et rex Stephanus ab antecessoris 
nostri persecutione non destitit antequam....Eugenius, omni ces- 
sante appellationis obstaculo, in caput ejus anathematis et in 
terrain interdict! sententiam praecepit ab omnibus episcopis 
auctoritate apostolica exerceri. Gervase (Act. Pontif. Cant. a. v. 
Theobald) mentions an interdict against the royal demesnes 
issued by T heobald during the short exile which followed his 
visit to Eeims in 1148. Hook (ArcJibps. ii. 343), omitting the 
interdict of 1152, seems inclined to recognise in the earlier one the 
hand of Thomas, always so ready to wield the weapon of excom- 
munication in his own exile. Lingard (x. 46) is not certain 
whether the second sentence was a new one or only a confirmation 
of the first; but the distinction is immaterial. 



It was evidently considerable, to judge from the 
emphasis which Gervase lays upon his intervention. 
But little more can be said with certainty, except 
that in this case, as in all his public actions while in 
the service of Theobald, he fully recognised and 
insisted upon the recognition of the papal claims in 
Church and State. 

Prefer- Preferment in the meantime had been coming 

pluralities thick and fast from the hands of the grateful arch- 
of Thomas, bishop, partly as a reward for the services of Thomas 
at home and abroad, partly as a definite means of 
providing for his maintenance. He had already 
been admitted into the minor orders of the Church, 
apparently to facilitate his holding ecclesiastical 
benefices, the revenues of which went to make his 
income, while the spiritual duties were performed 
by a paid substitute. A grave doubt is cast upon 
the existence of any real spiritual motive by the fact 
that his promotion to the orders now recognised in 
the Church of England coincided with his elevation 
to high ecclesiastical dignity. He was not ordained 
deacon, it seems, until the archdeaconry of Canter- 
bury fell vacant 1 ; and his ordination to the priesthood 
the Rubicon of the sacred calling was postponed 

1 Herb. iii. 168 : Theobaldus Thomarn, quern prius secundum 
fonnam canonum ad alios inferiores ordines, postea in levitam, 
simul etiam et ecclesiae suae archilevitam in ilia sancta et bumili 
monachorum congregatione ordinavit. Cp. Fitzst. iii. 17, where 
the churches of St Mary-le- Strand and Otford and the prebends 
are mentioned first, then the legal studies at Bologna and Auxerre, 
and then the writer adds: processu temporis et meritorum ejus, 
ordinavit eum archiepiscopus diaconum et fecit Cantuariensis 
ecclesiae archidiaconum. 


until it was necessitated by his election to the 

The only full account of Thomas' preferments 
while in the service of Theobald is given by Fitz- 
stephen. His first benefice 1 was the church of 
St Mary-le-Strand, London the gift of John, bishop 
of Worcester. Next came the living of Otford in 
Kent as a present from Theobald in recognition of 
his services on that memorable journey to Reims in 
1148. Gradually his acquisitions rose in the scale of 
importance. One prebend at St Paul's, London, fell 
into his hands, and another at Lincoln. Last of all 
came the archdeaconry of Canterbury, which ranked 
next in dignity to the bishoprics and abbacies of the 
English Church, and was estimated at the monetary 
value of a hundred pounds a year in the currency of 
that day. It was a suggestive appointment, indicat- 
ing as it did the career marked out for its recipient 
in the mind of his patron. The biographers regard 
it in that light unmistakably. John of Salisbury 
describes it as an opportunity of gaining a thorough 
experience of ecclesiastical administration *. William 
of Canterbury hints that Theobald had an eye to the 
prospect of his archdeacon succeeding him as arch- 
bishop 8 . Whatever his ulterior motive was, Theobald 
gladly seized the opportunity which helped his 

1 Fitzst. iii. 17: primum reditum habuit. The word is sugges- 

2 Job. S. ii. 304: quo per experientiam rerun facilius dis- 
pensationis ecclesiasticae usum consequeretur...a praefato archi- 
episcopo...archidiaconus institutus est. 

3 Will. C. i. 4 : forsan ut tempore suo, gradu suo locoque suo 
archidiaconns in archiepiscopum promoveretur. 


favourite clerk into a post of eminence and at the 
same time gave the see of Canterbury an archdeacon 
who knew his canon law. The see of York was left 
vacant in 1154 by the death of its archbishop, 
William. Theobald procured the appointment of 
Roger, then archdeacon of Canterbury, and thus 
opened the way for the promotion of Thomas, on 
whom he conferred the vacant archdeaconry and the 
provostship of Beverley, which Roger had held, along 
with other pieces of preferment 1 . In the October of 
that year the death of Stephen removed the last 
obstacle to the accession of Henry of Anjou. During 
the three months that elapsed before his coronation 
the maintenance of law and order rested with Theo- 

1 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 10, 11 : Eboracensi itaque sede vacante 
Theobaldus...modis omnibus sategit qualiter archidiaconum suum 
Bogerium...eidem sedi praeficeret, quatenus per hoc et dignitati 
ecclesiae Cantuariensi et honor! suo et in clerico suo prospiceret et 
Thomae ad majora viam aperiret. The king's consent was 
obtained, Roger was consecrated by Theobald (in his capacity as 
papal legate, by special request of the chapter of York, according 
to Walter of Hemingburgh, i. 79, quoted by Freeman, Norm. 
Conqu. v. 315 n.), and, absque mora archidiaconatum Cantuarien- 
sis ecclesiae et praeposituram Beverleiae, quae Rogerius obtinuerat, 
cum aliis ecclesiis pluribus Thomae assignavit. Foss (Lives of the 
Judges) is uncertain whether the provostship followed or preceded 
the archdeaconry, but the above quotation seems decisive enough : 
they were both of them (quae neut. plur.) resigned by Roger and 
both transferred to Thomas together. The chroniclers are 
unanimous in dating the appointment 1154 (e. g. Chron. of Holy- 
rood, and Melrose ; Annals of Winchester, etc.). Thierry (Norm. 
Conqu. ii. 54) makes Thomas archdeacon already at the tune of 
his negotiations with the Roman Church on the question of 
Eustace's coronation, and puts "a few years" between this event 
and Henry's accession, and "a few years" more between the 
accession and Thomas' appointment as chancellor! 


bald, and it is more than probable that Thomas 
helped his patron in the work of government. But 
the next recorded fact in the career of the new 
archdeacon is his appointment as chancellor under 
the new king 1 ; and this chapter of his life may fitly 
close with a subsequent allusion of his own to his 
worldly position at this date. The bishops and 
clergy reminded him in their letter of remonstrance 
in 1166 that his rise in the world had been one series 
of royal favours from the very outset. Thomas met 
the charge by pointing simply to the long roll of 
preferments which were already his before the king 
gave him the chancellorship. "If you look back," 
he said in his reply to Foliot 2 , " to the time at which 

1 The Icelandic Saga (i. 47) represents Thomas as acting as 
the king's chamberlain for some time before his promotion to the 
chancellorship; but there is no mention whatever of this earlier 
office in any of the other contemporary authorities. 

2 Epist. 224 (v. 515). It was a conclusive reply to his op- 
ponents' insinuation that he was a nonentity until he was taken 
up by the king. But it has found a severe critic in the author of 
Short Studies on Great Subjects (iv. 26). " It is noticeable," says 
Prof. Froude, "that afterwards, in the heat of the battle in which 
he earned his saintship, he was so far from looking back with 
regret on his accumulation of preferments that he paraded them 
as an evidence of his early consequence." It is hard lines that in 
repudiating the character of a needy place-hunter, Thomas should 
have incurred the opposite charge of being an unscrupulous 
pluralist. As Freeman long ago pointed out in his criticism of 
Froude's sneer at Thomas' expense (Contemp. Review, vol. 32, 
p. 124), no expression of regret was called for. Thomas had 
merely to answer a "misstatement of fact"; and the answer 
involved a frank avowal of his early pluralities, in which anything 
like an apology would have been an inappropriate digression from 
his point. Robertson, in his Becket, a Biography, is much fairer 
than Froude, but still has a grievance against Thomas. "The 


the king promoted me to his service, the arch- 
deaconry -of Canterbury, the provostship of Beverley, 
churches in plenty, prebends more than one, and 
other benefices not a few, then in my possession, 
prove that I was not so poorly furnished with this 
world's goods as you say 1 was." 

circumstance," he remarks, "that he was only a deacon was no 
hindrance to the accumulation of benefices on him; for in those 
days a prosperous ecclesiastic would seem to have regarded his 
parishes merely as sources of income, while he complacently 
devolved the care of each on some ill-paid priest. Nor, when Becket 
afterwards appeared as an ecclesiastical reformer, did he make 
any attempt to remedy this, which to modern apprehensions may 
perhaps seem the most crying abuse of all." Robertson's mistake 
in fact lies in measuring Becket by modern standards, and in 
ignoring the principle which underlay the system of mediaeval 
pluralism. The whole question of pluralities has been treated by 
Freeman in an exhaustive manner which leaves nothing to be said 
(Contemp. Review, vol. 32, pp. 126-128). He points out how the 
older view of a spiritual office, which placed the duties first and 
regarded the emoluments as a maintenance for the man holding 
the office while he fulfilled the duties in person, gave way to the 
feudal idea of a possession in which " the duties were attached to 
the benefice rather than the benefice to the duties. So that the 
duties were discharged, it was not necessary that the holder of the 
benefice should always discharge them in person." Towards the close 
of the eleventh century the principles of feudalism stamped themselves 
on Church preferment, and the pluralism so prevalent in the case of 
temporal benefices seemed to warrant pluralism in ecclesiastical 
benefices. The baron had his many manors on condition of doing 
duty to his lord for each, and so the ecclesiastic might have his 
many livings. "The average conscience of the time," says 
Freeman in conclusion, "was fully satisfied if the holder of 
several benefices provided a competent person to do the duties of 
each. If Thomas did this at Beverley and Otford and wherever 
else he held preferment, he would not reach the standard either of 
primitive or of modern morality; but he would fully satisfy the 
morality of his own age." 



THE archdeacon of Canterbury now became the His intro- 
chancellor of England, and Thomas exchanged the 
service of the archbishop for the service of the king. 
The appointment seems to have been mainly the 
work of Theobald. It is quite possible that Henry 
had himself recognised the value of Thomas' share 
in the semi-ecclesiastical, semi-political negotiations 
to which he owed in part his acceptance as king of 
England, and was more than ready to find a place in 
his court for a servant whose ability was enhanced 
by his evident devotion to the aims of his master. 
But the biographers lay greater stress on the arch- 
bishop's share in his favourite's promotion. It was 
Theobald's recommendation that won Thomas the 
chancellorship, a recommendation seconded by Henry 
bishop of Winchester 1 , who had decided to forgive 

1 Fitzst. iii. 17 : commendatione et obtentu archiepiscopi et 
hortatu actuque nobilis Henrici Wintoniensis episcopi, regis factus 
est Thomas cancellarius. 


and forget, and not only joined his old rival Theobald 
in welcoming Henry of Anjou, but also lent a hand 
to lift the young diplomatist who had thwarted his 
ambition in the past. One of the anonymous bio- 
graphers lets us further into the secret workings of 
the royal favour. Theobald consulted Philip, bishop 
of Bayeux, and Arnulf, bishop of Lisieux, two Nor- 
man ecclesiastics on whose advice the young king 
relied at the outset of his reign, and persuaded them, 
it seems, to support him in urging the claims of 
Thomas upon the royal notice 1 . 

Theobald's The early biographers have not quite done 
justice to the motives of Theobald in procuring the 
appointment of Thomas. He seems to have had a 
double purpose in view, the restoration of law and 

1 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 12: adscitis igitur ad se Cantuariensis 
antistes Philippo Baiocensi et Arnulfo Lexoviensi episcopis, quo- 
rum consiliis rex in primordiis suis innitebatur, coepit de Thomae 
prudentia, strenuitate, et fidelitate atque morum laudabili et 
admirabili mansuetudine inferre sermonem, memoratisque epi- 
scopis secundum voluntateru et suasionem archiepiscopi annuenti- 
bus, Thomas regiam ingressus curiam cancellarii nomen officium- 
que suscepit. It is interesting in this connexion to notice the 
subsequent relations between Arnulf and Thomas. There is an 
undated letter from Arnulf to the chancellor (Epist. i. in the 
Materials, v. 1-3) written in the most complimentary terms, 
warning him at the same tune against the dangers of a courtier's 
life with its scanty opportunities for true friendship, and closing 
with the request that the chancellor would watch over the interests 
of a friend of Arnulf s and keep Arnulf himself in evidence before 
the king. In 1162 Arnulf writes (Epist. 12, v. 20) to congratulate 
Thomas on his consecration. For a time at least they were good 
friends, though at a later date Arnulf wavered between his 
friendship for Thomas and his loyalty to the king, siding generally 
with the latter. 


order throughout the country, and at the same time 
the maintenance of the privileges of the Church. 
The reign of Stephen had bequeathed to England a 
legacy of civil anarchy and ecclesiastical predomi- 
nance, the latter the natural result of the former; 
and it was apparently Theobald's aim to ensure the 
suppression of the disorder without losing the ad- 
vantages which it had given to the Church. The 
first claim upon the energies of the new king was 
undoubtedly the substitution of rule for misrule, law 
for licence, throughout the realm; but Theobald 
foresaw that a crisis could not long be postponed 
when the king turned to face the pretensions of the 
ecclesiastical body within his kingdom. The secular 
power of the Church had grown rapidly during the 
turbulence of Stephen's reign. It was strong in 
territorial resources. A large proportion of the 
knights' fees were in the hands of ecclesiastical 
holders ; and the frowning castles that rose thick 
and fast during that reign of anarchy were many of 
them the strongholds of bishops militant like Henry 
of Winchester 1 and Roger of Salisbury, whose 
nephews Alexander of Lincoln and Roger of Ely 
were castle-builders as energetic as their uncle. 
It was strong in organisation. While the body 
politic was divided against itself, alternating between 
two sovereigns and torn by rival factions among the 
barons, the national Church had all the strength of 

1 Winchester's castles had to come down at Henry's bidding in 
1155. Robert de Monte, A.D. 1155. Cp. Pipe Boll 2 Henry H. 
(1155-1156), in prosternendis castellis episcopi Wintoniensis, in 
Hampshire (Hunter, p. 55). 


unity, though it was unity purchased by the recog- 
nition of a foreign court of appeal in the Papacy 1 . 
The national assembly had ceased to meet, and civil 
justice was in abeyance ; but the synods of the 
Church were still held, and law was still administered 
in the episcopal courts. When there was not even a 
semblance of authority in the State, there was the 
reality in the Church. The pretensions of the clergy 
more than kept pace with their power. Gervase 
styles Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester, on one 
occasion "Angliae dominus utpote frater regis et 
apostolicae sedis legatus," and at the Synod of 
Winchester in 1141 this "lord of all England," 
presiding as legate, actually claimed for the clergy 
the right of electing as well as consecrating the 
occupant of the royal throne 2 . But now the tide 
seemed to be turning. With a young king at the 
head of the State determined to be king over all his 
subjects in fact as well as in name and surrounded 
by advisers who looked with an evil eye upon the 
privileges and possessions of the Church, the current 
seemed to be setting in the opposite direction. The 
attitude of the court was unmistakable, that of the 

1 Freeman considers that the absence of any central au- 
thority in England was largely responsible for the ready acquies- 
cence in appeals to Rome. "The pontiff seemed the sublime 
and dimly seen embodiment of that reign of law which had 
passed away from our own shores" (Contemp. Review, vol. 32, 
p. 133). 

2 William of Malmesbury, Hist. Nov. iii. 44 : ventilata est 
hesterno die causa (i.e. the claims of Matilda) secreto coram 
majori parte cleri Angliae, ad cujus jus potissimum spectat 
principem eligere simulque ordinare. 


king suspicious 1 ; and Theobald was as anxious about 
the immediate interests of the Church as he was 
afraid for her future welfare 2 . But the Church was 
not his only care. It was only natural that the 
contemporary biographers of Thomas, all of them 
ecclesiastics in position and sympathy, should lay 
special stress on this side of Theobald's policy, but 
it was not the whole. The actual sufferings of the 
people at the hands of lawless barons, and the 
possibility of their suffering further at the hands 
of a king of semi-foreign extraction who might be 
tempted to treat England as a conquered nation and 
play the part of a conqueror by wreaking an arbitrary 
revenge upon his new subjects, these were con- 
siderations which Theobald kept clearly in view, as 
we learn from John of Salisbury 3 . He was anxious 

1 Milman (Lat. Christ, iii. 447) notes the possibility of an 
hereditary bias against the Church. His father Geoffrey had been 
a cruel enemy to more than one ecclesiastic. Cp. Eobertson, 
Becket, p. 25. 

2 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 11: erat in ecclesia regni illius non 
modica trepidatio, turn propter suspectam regis aetatem, turn 
propter collateralium ejus circa ecclesiasticae libertatis jura 
notam malignitatem. Nee frustra, sicut rei exitus indicavit. 
Cantuariensis autem antistes, tarn de praesenti sollicitus quam dc 
futuro timidus, aliquod remedium malis quae imminere timeban- 
tur, opponere cogitabat: visumque est ei quod, si Thomam regis 
posset inserere consiliis, maximam exinde quietem et pacem 
Anglicanae ecclesiae posse provenire : sciebat enim eum magnani- 
mum et prudentem, qui et zelum Dei haberet cum scientia et 
ecclesiasticam libertatem totis affectibus aemularetur. 

3 Joh. S. ii. 304: erat enim ei (Theobaldo) suspecta adoles- 
centia regis, et juvenum et pravorum hominum, quorum consiliis 
agi videbatur, insipientiam et malitiam formidabat: etne instinctu 
eorum insolentius ageret jure victoris, qui sibi videbatur, etsi 



charge : 
the chan- 

to place near the king a minister who would befriend 
the people as well as the Church, who would help 
Henry to put down anarchy with a strong hand, and 
at the same time watch all ecclesiastical interests 
with a protecting eye. Thomas seemed the very 
man for the work, and Theobald lost no time in 
putting him forward. The recommendation of the 
archbishop and his friends and Thomas' own services 
in the cause of Henry's accession were both strong 
claims upon the royal favour, and Thomas of London 
became the king's chancellor. 

A very different light is thrown on this transaction 
by an assertion in a letter written by Gilbert Foliot, 
bishop of London, to archbishop Thomas in 1166. 
Foliot accuses him of having bought the chancellor- 
ship publicly with an eye to the prospect of the 
primacy 1 . It is true that promotion to offices of 

aliter esset, populum subegisse, cancellarium procurabat in curia 
ordinari, cujus ope et opera novi regis, ne saeviret in ecclesiam, 
impetum cohiberet, et consilii sui temperaret malitiam, et repri- 
meret audaciam officialium, qui sub obtentu publicae potestatis et 
praetextu juris tarn ecclesiae qiiam provincialium facilitates diripere 
conspiraverant. Will. C. i. 5, is equally emphatic on the subject 
of the king's encroachment upon the rights, and the courtiers' 
designs upon the property of the Church, but says nothing of the 
sufferings of the people, actual and prospective, at which John of 
Salisbury hints. Cp. with regard to the danger of the Church 
"the dying admonitions of Theobald to the king," as Milman 
styles the letter written by John in Theobald's name, probably 
towards the last days of the archbishop's life: suggerunt vobis 
filii saeculi hujus ut ecclesiae minuatis auctoritatem ut vobis regia 
dignitas augeatur (Job. S. Epist. 64, ed Giles). 

1 Epist. 225 (v. 525) : ad ipsa siquidem recurramus initia, quis 
toto orbe nostro, quis ignorat, quis tarn resupinus ut nesciat vos 
certa licitatione proposita cancellariam illam dignitatem multis 


state by purchase was not unknown in those days. 
While the ordinary offices in the royal household, 
such as the stewardship, became hereditary, those 
which tended to develop into ministerial posts of 

marcarum millibus obtinuisse, et aurae hujus impulsu in portum 
ecclesiae Cantuariensis illapsum, ad ejus tandem sic regimen 
accessisse? Froude (Short Studies, iv. 28) thinks it "inconceiv- 
able that the bishop of London would have thrown such a charge 
directly in Becket's teeth unless there had been some foundation 
for it," and leaves the question, evidently regarding it as settled 
by this off-hand remark. The charge is really two-fold, (1) the 
purchase, (2) the design upon the primacy. The latter is im- 
probable, but more of this in its proper place. The simple 
question of the purchase cannot be settled for certain either way, 
in the absence of the Pipe Roll of 1 Henry II., where a transaction 
so public (certa licitatione proposita, apparently competition is 
implied) would certainly have been recorded, if it ever took 

Stnbbs (Const. Hist. vol. i.) gives instances of the sale of 
offices. In the Pipe Roll of 31 Henry I. (1130-1131) Geoffrey 
Bufus, afterwards bishop of Durham, is recorded as owing 
3000. 13s. 4d. "pro sigillo." In the Annals of Margam, A.D. 
1122, it is stated that he bought the chancellorship "pro vii. 
millibus libris argenti." Evidently the sum in the Pipe Boll was 
the remainder of the purchase-money agreed upon in 1122. 
(Bobertson, Becket, App. n. p. 322.) In the same Pipe Boll John 
the marshal appears as paying 40 marks for a post in the Curia 
Begis, and Richard Fitzalured pays 15 marks for the privilege of 
acting as assessor to Ralph Bassett "ad placita regis" in 
Buckinghamshire, i.e. as an itinerant justice. Bishop Nigel of 
Ely bought the treasurership for his son for 400 (Hist. Eliensis, 
in Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 384). Under Bichard I. William Long- 
champ, bishop of Ely, bought the chancellorship for 3000, 
though Beginald the Lombard had ventured to bid as high as 
4000 (Stubbs, i. 497). In the 7th year of John's reign, Walter 
de Grey fined with the king in 5000 marks to have the king's 
chancery for life and to obtain a charter to that effect (Madox, 
Hist. Exchequer, p. 43). 


political importance, like the chancellorship, were 
not unfrequently sold. No source of revenue was 
left untried by the Angevin dynasty. Ministers of 
state fined for their offices in the royal service, just 
as litigants fined for the administration of royal 
justice and boroughs for the confirmation of royal 
grants ; and no discredit was involved in either case. 
But as a matter of fact there is no proof that the 
chancellorship was sold to Thomas. Foliot's as- 
sertion stands unsupported by other evidence. It 
is true that we have no extant reply from Thomas, 
but the argument ex silentio can scarcely be pressed 
to prove that silence in this case meant inability 
to disprove the charge. It might with equal 
probability be interpreted as the silence of con- 
temptuous disregard. On the other hand there are 
two considerations which detract from the weight 
of Foliot's accusation. (1) The chancellorship had 
never yet been a stepping-stone to the primacy. 
It was the added greatness of the chancellorship in 
Thomas' hands that made his promotion straight 
from that office to the primacy possible ; and in this 
light Foliot's assertion looks like an afterthought. 
(2) It must be remembered that this isolated charge 
comes from the pen of an old rival, embittered by 
his own disappointment and by the high-handed 
policy of his successful opponent. It occurs in the 
last of a group of letters that passed between the 
archbishop and the bishops of his province after his 
excommunication of his antagonists, and ended in 
a personal epistolary warfare between Thomas and 
Foliot, who championed the cause of his fellow- 


suffragans. They are essentially party pamphlets, 
and little reliance can be placed upon their asser- 
tions unless corroborated by evidence from more dis- 
passionate sources. 

The date of Thomas' appointment to the Date of the 
chancellorship has been variously given from 1154 
to 1158 ; but anything later than 1155 seems out of 
the question. Gervase places the appointment "at 
the very outset of the reign 1 ." There may have 
been a brief interval between Henry's accession and 
the promotion of Thomas. The charter of liberties, 
which has been assigned to the coronation (Dec. 
19th, 1154), is attested not by the chancellor but by 
Richard de Luci the justiciar ; and this may perhaps 
be an indication that the chancellorship was still 
vacant, for the chancellor's name was usually 
appended as a witness to all royal charters 2 . But 
it seems certain that Thomas was Henry's first 
chancellor. More than one name, it is true, has 
been suggested by modern historians, but no other 
name occurs in the original authorities 3 . Diceto 

1 Gervase, Chron. (col. 1377, Twysden): "statim in initio 
regni " Theobald obtained the promotion of Thomas " cui anno 
praeterito dederat archidiaconatum." The date of the archdeaconry 
was October 1154. 

2 Stubbs (Select Charters, p. 135) takes the attestation by 
Luci as an indication of the date of the charter, which he 
describes as "probably earlier than the appointment of Thomas 
as chancellor." 

3 Robertson mentions an undated grant to the earl of Arundel 
(Rymer, Foedera, i. 41), at the close of which occur the following 
words among the list of witnesses, Theobaldo archiepiscopo 
Cantuariensi N. episcopo de Ely et cancellario. This might be 
alleged, as Robertson points out, in favour of a previous tenure of 

R. 5 


records the appointment under the year 1154, and 
there is only one passage in the early biographers 
that appears to point to a later date than 1155. 
Herbert of Bosham says that Thomas had served 
five years at court as chancellor when he was elected 
archbishop. This would place his appointment in 
1157 1 . But against this statement must be set the 
evidence of another biographer whose chronology is 
much more reliable. Fitzstephen distinctly credits 
Thomas the chancellor with a share in the speedy 
restoration of law and order which took place within 
three months after the coronation (December 1154- 
March 1155) 2 . The one conclusive authority the 
Pipe Roll of the first year of Henry's reign is 
missing; but the evidence of the next year's Pipe 
Roll (Michaelmas 1155-1156) is practically decisive 
in favour of 1155 as the latest possible date. It 

the chancellorship by Nigel. But Foss (Judges, i. 166) explains et 
as a clerical error for T, the initial letter of Thoma. Nigel was 
recalled to the Exchequer as treasurer by Henry II. at the outset 
of his reign. 

The name of Philip, who was chancellor for a time under 
Stephen, has been put forward as a possible predecessor of 
Thomas under Henry II., but it is without evidence. 

1 Herb. iii. 185. Lingard (ii. 55) apparently dates the 
chancellorship of Thomas from 1156 or 1157. He makes Theo- 
bald retain "the first place in the councils of his sovereign" for 
two years, and then procure the promotion of Thomas to the 
chancellorship ; but he quotes no authority in support of this 

2 Fitzst. iii. 19 : miseratione Dei, consilio cancellarii, et cleri et 
baronum regni qui pacis bonum volebant, intra tres primes 
menses coronationis regis,...Willelmus de Ipra...cum lacrimis 
emigravit; Flandrenses omnes collectis impediments et armis 
ad mare tendunt. 


contains the name of no other chancellor than 
Thomas, and, as the biographer of the "Judges of 
England " has pointed out, its evidence is largely 
retrospective 1 . The notices of the chancellor's 
exemption from certain charges on his property 
refer probably to charges due in the first year of 
the reign, though accounted for in the Koll of the 
second year. Similarly the payments mentioned as 
arising out of the pleas held by the chancellor in 
Essex and Kent were probably imposed in the 
previous year, as some time would elapse before the 
sheriffs could collect the money due to the Exchequer. 
The appointment of Thomas to the chancellorship 
may be fixed early in 1155 at the latest. It was 
perhaps made, if a conjecture may be hazarded, at 
the Council which Henry held at Bermondsey on 
Christmas Day 1154, within a week of his coro- 
nation 2 . 

The chancellorship in 1154 was an important The office 
office, though its importance was potential rather ce 
than actual. The chancellor yielded a formal 
precedence to the justiciar 3 , who acted as regent in 

1 Foss, Judges, i. 196, 199. 

2 Diceto's date (1154) in that case will be just correct. It was 
at this Council apparently that Henry concerted his plan of 
campaign with his new ministers. Gervase (coL 1377, Twysden) : 
in nativitate Domini tenuit rexcuriam suam apud Bermundeseiam, 
ubi cum principibus suis de statu regni et pace reformanda 
tractans, proposuit animo alienigenas gentes de regno propellere 
et munitiunculas pessimas per totam Angliam solo tenus dis- 

3 Fitzst. iii. 17 : cancellarii Angliae dignitas est ut secundus a 
rege in regno habeatur. The author of the Dialogus de Scaccario 
(Stubbs, Select Charters, p. 176) describes the justiciar, "capitalis 



the king's absence, and apparently to three or four 
other officers of the royal household, the constable, 
the marshal, the steward and the chamberlain ; but 
at the same time he had functions to discharge and 
opportunities for active influence with the king 
which lent themselves readily to further develop- 
ment. It will be convenient here at the outset to 
sketch in outline the character and duties of this 
office of state. The full title of its holder was 
cancellarius regis 1 , so called in all probability for 
the sake of distinction from other chancellors of 
inferior rank who occasionally come upon the scene, 
e.g. cancellarius reginae 2 , and at a later date the 
chancellors of cathedral churches. The chancellor 
was the king's chief chaplain, entrusted with the 
care of the royal chapel 3 ; and on this account the 
post of chancellor was always held by an ecclesiastic. 
But his ecclesiastical functions ended there. It was 
" a thoroughly secular office " which " must have left 

domini regis justicia," as being "primus post regem in regno 
ratione fori." Bishop Stubbs accordingly explains Fitzstephen's 
'secundus a rege' as meaning 'next after the justiciar' (Const. 
Hist. i. 604, n.). 

1 Madox, Exchequer, p. 41. Stubbs derives cancellarius from 
cancelli, the screen behind which the secretarial work of the royal 
household was done. 

2 Bernard bishop of S. David's was chancellor to Matilda, the 
first wife of Henry I., and Godfrey of Bath to the second. 
(Florence of Worcester, 1115, and Continuator Flor. Wore. 1123. 
Stubbs, 1. c.) 

3 Madox (p. 41) notes that the chancellor is called "chef de le 
chapele le Roy" as late as Edward II. 's reign in an ordinance 
relating to the royal chapel of Windsor. Fitzst. iii. 18 : ut capella 
regis in ipsius (cancellarii) sit dispositione et cura. 


its holder very little time for ecclesiastical duties or 
thoughts." In fact one of its functions was scarcely 
consistent with the principles of a conscientious 
churchman 1 . It was part of the chancellor's work 
to receive and control the revenues of vacant 
bishoprics and abbeys 2 , which fell to the Crown now 
that the ecclesiastical benefice had been assimilated 
to the feudal grant. The civil functions of the 
chancellor were many and various. He was briefly, 
to borrow a modern term, secretary of state for all 
departments 3 . As keeper of the royal seal, he 
supervised all charters that were to be stamped 
with the great seal, and all writs and orders that 
were issued at the Curia Regis and at the Exchequer. 
Like the chief justiciar and the other officers of the 

1 Freeman, Contemp. Review, vol. 32, p. 477. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 18: ut vacantes archiepiscopatus, episcopatus, 
abbatias, et baronias, cadentes in manu regis, ipse (cancellarius) 
suscipiat et conservet. Cp. Herb. iii. 180 (on the death of 
Theobald) : rex dissimulat nisi quod archiepiscopatus, sicut et 
episcopatus et etiam vacantes abbatiae solent, curae cancellarii et 
custodiae traditur. Lyttelton (Life of Henry II., Appendix on 
the Chancellorship) concludes from the evidence of the Bolls that 
the custody of vacant preferments did not fall to the chancellor ex 
qfficio but by personal favour of the king, and considers that the 
king entrusted the care of vacant benefices to whom he pleased. 
But he gives no reference to the particular Rolls on which his 
view is based, and quotes no instance of preferment entrusted to 
the care of any one besides the chancellor. And Fitzstephen and 
Herbert seem positive enough on the point. 

3 Cp. William of Canterbury's designation of the chancellor- 
ship as scribatus (i. 5, and elsewhere). Fitzst. iii. 18: ut altera 
parte sigilli regii, quod et ad ejus pertinet custodiam, propria 
signet mandata; ut omnibus regis adsit conciliis, et etiam non 
vocatus se ingerat; ut omnia sigilliferi regii, clerici sui, manu 
signentur, omnia cancellarii consilio disponantur. 


royal household, he was ex officio a member of both 
those courts, a justiciar of the Curia Regis and 
a baron of the Exchequer. Fitzstephen sums up 
his introductory sketch of the chancellor's position 
in the realm with the remark that a chancellor with 
a good record might die a bishop or an archbishop 
if he chose. Inde est quod cancellaria non emenda 
est. It was a precaution against simony. The door 
which led to such an avenue must open only to the 
key of merit. In the face of Foliot's assertion that 
Thomas used a baser key, and certainly in the face 
of the contemporary evidence as to the possibility of 
such an entrance, we must discount Fitzstephen's 
estimate of the sanctity of the office. Perhaps even 
his testimony to its dignity must be taken with 
some qualification, as the evidence of a witness who 
is looking at the chancellorship through the halo 
of magnificence which the genius of Thomas had 
thrown around the office. As a matter of fact, its 
greatness was only incipient in 1154. Various 
causes contributed to its growth 1 . Royal charters 
increased in number and importance. Pleas and 
cases came thick and fast for trial to the sessions of 
the royal justices when it was seen how superior 
they were to the local courts in fairness and 
efficiency. These changes added to the work of the 
chancellorship. The office of justiciar in time lost 
much of its early prestige, and what the justiciar 
lost the chancellor gained. But the personal 
element accounted for more than any of the above 
causes. The ability and influence of one chancellor 
1 Madox, Exchequer, p. 43. 


after another clothed the office with a grandeur not 
originally its own. They left it greater than they 
found it, and their successors entered upon a wider 
range of power won largely by the enterprise of 
former chancellors in extending their influence 
beyond the traditional limits of their office. 

Thomas of London was the first great chancellor. 
The civil and ecclesiastical duties which fell officially 
to him as chancellor form but a small part of the 
work with which he is to be credited during his 
chancellorship of seven years and a half. He was 
the responsible agent, if not the author, of Henry's 
foreign policy, his lieutenant in time of war, his 
ambassador in time of peace. He was the con- 
fidential minister of the Crown at home, the practical 
head of the executive, the recognised approach to 
the royal ear, the acknowledged channel of royal 
favour 1 . All this was in a sense extra ordinem, 
the result of personal influence, not official powers. 
It was an age of personal government. The larger 
Curia Regis the great council of the Norman kings 
consisting of the mass of barons summoned by 
royal mandate for deliberative and judicial purposes, 
met only at intervals. The natural result of this 
was that the current affairs of state came to be 
transacted immediately by the king and the smaller 

1 Cp. Auct. Anon. i. iv. 12: Thomas vero vices ejus et negotia 
strenue et potestative exsequens nunc princeps militiae loricatus 
exercitum praeibat, nunc vacans et expeditionibus jura populis 
dictabat. Solo namque nomine a rege differens regnum uni- 
versum pro voluntate disponebat, principibus et magistratibus ad 
ejus nutum subjectis, certissimeque scientibus hoc solummodo 
regi gratum fore quod Thomas expedire judicasset. 


Curia Regis the few officers in permanent attend- 
ance on the king. The chancellor, as the royal 
secretary, had practically unlimited opportunities 
for exerting his influence with the king ; and when 
to these opportunities was added a personal friend- 
ship of the warmest kind, we need not wonder that 
the power and prestige of the chancellorship rose 
in the hands of Thomas to such an unprecedented 
height 1 . 

The work of Thomas the chancellor is perhaps 
best grouped under the different heads of foreign, 
civil, and ecclesiastical administration. A clearer 
view of the man and his work will thus be gained 
than from any merely chronological arrangement. 
It will be an additional gain in orderly sequence 
to take his ecclesiastical policy last of all a position 
required by its obvious connexion with the climax 
of his career, his elevation to the primacy. But it 
will not be inappropriate to notice here beforehand 
the general views which the early biographers take 
of his relations with the king and with his fellow- 
courtiers respectively. 

Relations Fitzstephen waxes enthusiastic on the subject of 

n.) T with aS tne confidential intimacy between the king and his 

the king, chancellor, whom he styles, it may be with pardonable 

exaggeration, the favourite alike of king, clergy, 

1 Freeman remarks that "perhaps the greatest witness of all 
to the height to which the great chancellor had raised the 
chancellorship is to be found in the fact that the king thought it 
possible that he could hold both chancellorship and arch- 
bishopric together." (Contemp. Review, vol. 32, p. 476, cp. pp. 


barons and people 1 . When the serious business of 
the court was done, they would launch out into the 
wildest freaks of boyish fun. There is an oft-told 
story of a fight between the two for the chancellor's 
cape as they rode down a London street on a wintry 
day, while the shivering beggar for whom the prize 
was meant and the gay retinue of knights looked on 
in amazement. It may be only a fragment of court 
gossip, but it is at least a bit of characteristic gossip 
which must have had some foundation in the habits 
of king and chancellor. Often the king would pay 
an unexpected visit to the chancellor's board, partly 
out of curiosity to test the reality of its rumoured 
grandeur, partly from sheer amusement. Sometimes 
he would ride straight into the hall, sometimes 
empty a cup and disappear as hastily as he had 
come, sometimes vault over the table and take a 
seat beside his favourite. Never were seen two 
such friends in all Christendom 2 . Henry's con- 
fidence knew no limits. Thomas was entrusted 
with powers that placed him on a level with the 
king in all but name. His word was law for barons 

1 Fitzst. iii. 24: Cancellarius regi, clero, militiae et populo 
erat acceptissimus. Pertractatis seriis, colludebant rex et ipse 
tamquam coaetanei pueruli in aula, in ecclesia, in consessu, in 
equitando. Henry was twenty-one, Thomas thirty-six in 1154; 
but Thomas was a boy at heart when there was sport to be had. 
Fitzstephen's account is probably nearer the mark than that of 
Auct. Anon. i. iv. 12. who makes Henry play while Thomas 
worked. England never had a harder worker on the throne than 
Henry of Anjou, scholar, linguist, lawyer, soldier, statesman 
all in one, warring in France one week, the next travelling from 
shire to shire in England, always on the move, never resting, 
never tired. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 24, 25. 


and magistrates, his favour the one thing needful 
for suitors at court. Grim styles him "a second 
Joseph in Egypt 1 ." 

(2) with There is however another side to the picture. 

tr ' It was not all plain sailing for Thomas. There were 
serious difficulties to contend with at court, as we 
learn from the other biographers. The secret envy 
of his rivals 2 had its share in creating opposition 
now in the royal household as it had before in the 
palace of the archbishop. But the language of the 
biographers indicates that it was Thomas' policy 
rather than his promotion that made his enemies. 
John of Salisbury credits him with a threefold 
responsibility, the task of contending daily (1) for 
the welfare and dignity of his lord the king against 
the enemies of the Crown, (2) for the needs of 
Church and people against the king, and (3), last but 
not least, against "the wild beasts of the court." 
In pursuance of his own line of action Thomas 
was harassed by plots and intrigues until, as he 
tearfully confessed to his archbishop and his other 
friends, he was often weary of existence, and ready 
enough to break away from the complications of 
court life, if he could but withdraw without 

1 Grim, ii. 363 : novus itaque erigitur snper Aegyptum Joseph, 
praeficitur universis regni negotiis post regem secundus. 

2 Herb. iii. 177 : aulicorum verinis, per aulam serpens jam sed 
adhuc latens invidia. 

3 Job. S. ii. 305 : nee conditionis nee oneris sui immemor 
erat, qui quotidie bine pro dotnini sui regis salute et honore, inde 
pro necessitate ecclesiae et provincialium tarn contra regem ipsum 
quam contra inimicos ejus contendere cogebatur et variis artibus 
varies eludere dolos. sed hoc praecipue perurgebat quod inde- 
sinenter oportebat eum pugnare ad bestias curiae. 


disgrace 1 . According to the Icelandic Saga (i. 59) it 
was only Theobald's refusal to allow his resignation 
and Theobald's entreaty to him to persevere for the 
sake of the Church that kept Thomas at his post at 
court. There is not a word of these difficulties in Fitz- 
stephen's glowing account of his chancellorship, full 
and detailed as that account is. But the language of 
John of Salisbury and the anonymous biographer 
who tells the same tale is too strong to be ignored. 
It probably relates only to the early days of Thomas' 
chancellorship, when he was yet feeling his way into 
the royal favour, and perhaps making his first attempts 
to check the rapacity of barons and officials ; but 
it points unmistakably to the fact that Thomas had 
to work hard and fight hard at the outset for the 
universal goodwill and gratitude which Grim de- 
scribes as the reward of his conduct as chancellor 2 . 

1 Job. S. ii. 305 : in primis cancellariae suae auspiciis tot et 
tantas variarum necessitatum difficultates sustinuit, tot laboribus 
attritus est, tot afflictionibus fere oppressus, tot laqueis in aula 
expositus a malitia inhabitantium in ea, ut eum, sicut archiepiscopo 
suo et amicis sub lacrimarum testimonio referre solitus erat, saepe in 
dies singulos taederet vivere, et post vitae aeternae desiderium 
super omnia optaret ut absque infamiae nota posset a curiae 
nexibus explicari. Cp. Auct. Anon. i. iv. 12: in primordiis suis 
tantos aemulatorum assultus pertulit tantaque delatorum laces- 
situs est protervia...ut a curia recedere disponeret. The writer 
then proceeds to describe Thomas' rapid rise in the king's estima- 
tion. Verum rex, fide illius et iudustria citius cognita, tanta eum 
dilectione carissiumm habuit, ut neminem aliquando aeque 
dilexisse putetur. 

2 Grim, ii. 365 : tantam quoque gratiam adeptus est a rege et 
regno universe ut hos solum beatos reputaret opinio qui in ejus 
oculis complacere et regis consiliario et cancellario obsecundare in 
aliquo potuissent. 



Henry of THE foreign interest of Thomas' chancellorship 

Imn's oT* centres i n France. Fitzstephen, in his picture of the 

France, chancellor's magnificence at home and abroad, alludes 

to the generous welcome which Thomas gave to an 

embassy from the kings of Norway 1 ; and it is 

probable that he had a share in the reception of 

more than one of the complimentary embassies which 

came from the Emperor 2 , the king of Jerusalem and 

1 Fitzst. iii. 26. The date of the embassy is fixed by its 
mention in the Pipe Roll of 2 Henry II., 1155-1156 (Hunter, 
pp. 4, 15). Cp. Stubbs, Medicev. and Mod. Hist. pp. 124, 125, on 
the intercourse between the Churches of Norway and England 
under Stephen and Henry II. There is also a notice in the Pipe 
Roll of 3 Henry II. (1156-1157) relating to the reception of an 
embassy from Sweden (Hunter, pp. 101, 108). 

2 The signature of Thomas is appended to a letter from 
Henry II. to the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa, which was con- 
veyed with an oral message by Herbert of Bosham and a royal 
clerk named William: "De manu beati Jacobi super qua nobis 
scripsistis, in ore magistri Heriberti et Guilhelmi clerici nostri 
verbum posuimus. Teste Thoma cancellario apud Norhant(onam) ": 
quoted by Robertson from Radevic's Life of Frederic, i. 7 
(Materials, vol. v. addenda, opposite to p. xxvi), and dated by him 
about 1156. 


the Moorish princes of southern Spain, to pay their 
respects to the new king of England who was build- 
ing a second empire in Western Europe. But we 
have no record of any intervention in foreign affairs 
on the part of Thomas beyond his share in the 
relations between England and France. Those re- 
lations were precarious in the extreme. The position 
of Louis VII. of France was peculiar. He was the 
titular head of that conglomeration of small states 
between the Channel and the Pyrenees, all owning 
allegiance to him as their feudal lord. But circum- 
stances had thrown one after another of these fiefs 
into the hands of Henry of Anjou, until at last he 
was practically master of the situation. He was 
duke of Normandy and count of Anjou and Maine 
by inheritance. By his marriage with Eleanor, the 
divorced wife of Louis, in 1152, the earldom of 
Poitou and the duchy of Aquitaine, which she in- 
herited from her father William, were transferred 
from the French to the English Crown, from the lord 
to his vassal ; and Louis was left " cribb'd, cabin'd 
and confined " on the north, the west and the south 
by the territories of a powerful prince over whom 
he had no hold beyond his oath of feudal allegiance. 
Henry was already a continental sovereign before he 
became king of England, and during the first eight 
years of his reign (1154-1162) he was only in 
England twice, and that merely for a year or more 
at a time. His foreign dominions required his 
immediate attention, and Thomas was frequently on 
duty abroad with him. 

The first call to action came with the aggression 






Campaign of Geoffrey, the king's brother, who had laid claim 
to the provinces of Anjou and Maine under the 
pretext that Henry had only received them on the 
express condition of resigning them to his younger 
brother on his own accession to the throne of 
England. Henry crossed the Channel in January 
1156, reduced the strongholds of Chinon, Mirabeau, 
and Loudon, which had taken Geoffrey's side, and 
compelled Geoffrey to resign his claim on the receipt 
of an annuity by way of compensation. Henry then 
exacted the homage of all Aquitaine, and prepared 
to return to England. Thomas' share in this short 
campaign is mentioned, though not distinctly speci- 
fied, by Gervase, who describes Henry at the outset 
as "relying on the valuable help of Thomas his 
chancellor 1 ." Apparently Thomas was not abroad 
long, for the evidence of the Pipe Roll of 1155-1156 
proves that he was busy with judicial work at home 
before Michaelmas 1156. 

Henry spent part of 1157 and 1158 in expeditions 
against the Welsh, and in a progress through the 
northern shires of England ; but the August of 1158 
saw him once more engaged in the extension of his 

1 Gervase, Chron. A.D. 1156 (Twysden, col. 1378): Thomae 
cancellarii sui magno fretus auxilio. Job. S. Epist. 128 (ed. 
Giles) connects the first scutage of the reign with this campaign : 
scutagium remittere non potest (rex) et a qnibusdam exactionibus 
abstinere, quoniam fratris gratia male sarta nequidquam coiit, 
sed ob hoc perniciosissime scissa est, quod domino regi frater 
totam haereditatem paternam, nominatim terrain cujus ei vis 
major possessionem abstulit, noluit abjurare, quum tamen mu- 
nitiones et regi cedere et obsides dare paratus esset, ut terrain 
quam dono patris habuerat recuperaret. 

policy in 


power on the continent. He had at least three distinct 
objects to secure. (1) The fortresses of the Vexin, 
the military frontier between his Norman duchy and 
the dominions of Louis, were in the hands of the 
French king, and Henry was bent on their recovery. 
(2) The death of Geoffrey, whom the citizens of 
Nantes had accepted as their earl, made Henry 
anxious to secure the earldom for himself. (3) The 
lordship of Brittany was just now a subject of 
dispute between two claimants, and Henry was 
determined to assert his authority in that quarter 
also. Every gain to Henry in territory or influence 
was a clear loss to Louis, who could ill brook any 
addition to the power of a vassal that had already 
robbed him of his wife and half his dominions. 
There was one insuperable obstacle to a policy of 
naked aggression on Henry's part, and that was the 
feudal relation between the vassal and his suzerain 
lord which remained "the dominant and authori- 
tative fact of the political morality of that day 1 ." 
Open war was the last policy to which Henry or 
Louis wished to resort. The only alternative for 
Henry was diplomacy, and in Thomas the chancellor 
he had a diplomatist who had already won signal 
triumphs in the sphere of papal negotiations. How 
far the continental policy of Henry during the years 
1158 1160 was the fruit of Thomas' influence in 
the private counsels of his king, we cannot say. In 
the light of their difference of opinion before the 
walls of Toulouse in 1159, when Thomas showed 
himself as impetuously regardless as Henry was 
1 Mrs J. R. Green, Henry II. p. 32. 


cautiously observant of feudal honour, we might be 
inclined to credit Henry rather than Thomas with 
the authorship of a policy which aimed at finding 
a technical justification in the sight of the feudal 
world for every act of aggression, and sought to avoid 
war wherever peace would suffice for its purpose. 
But perhaps some allowance must be made for 
Thomas on that occasion. The sword was already 
drawn, and the diplomatist lost in the soldier wild 
with excitement over his first campaign. Thomas 
in 1158 may have been as keenly alive as Henry 
was in 1159 to the need of wary walking. But 
whatever doubt there is as to the chancellor's 
share in the origination of this policy, there is no 
doubt that he was the responsible agent in its 

Thomas Before the close of 1158 a marriage had been 

bassad arranged between Louis' infant daughter Margaret 
1158. and little Henry, the eldest surviving son of Henry 
of England, and the Vexin secured as Margaret's 
dowry ; Henry had quelled the disturbances in 
Brittany, and added the earldom of Nantes to his 
dominions. The marriage alliance and Louis' consent 
to the extension of Henry's influence in the West 
are distinctly described by one authority or another 
as the work of Thomas, and the connexion between 
the two is obvious. Louis had been disarmed, his 
threatened opposition to Henry's plans in Brittany 
changed into a formal sanction, and his fortresses on 
Henry's frontier neutralised, by a successful visit 
from Henry's ambassador Thomas the chancellor. 
Fitzstephen dwells with lingering delight upon 


the magnificence of this embassy. Its splendour was 
par of its policy. It was Thomas' aim not only to 
make his own mark upon the French world, but 
also to leave a still more distinct impression of his 
master's greatness, and this he succeeded in doing 1 . 
The inhabitants of the districts through which he 
passed took the glory of the chancellor as an indi- 
cation of the still more wonderful glory of his lord 
the king. It was a grand sight, Fitzstephen tells 
us, a mounted retinue of two hundred members of 
the chancellor's own household, knights, clerks, at- 
tendants, budding slips of English and foreign 
nobility, learning the arts of knighthood under his 
supervision; hounds and hawks to beguile the journey ; 
eight five-horse cars, with a new-liveried groom to 
each horse's head, one of them the chancellor's chapel, 
another his private chamber, another his wardrobe, 
another his kitchen, two of them laden with iron- 
bound casks of a bright wholesome beverage like 
wine in colour but superior in taste, which found 
great favour with the men of France (now com- 
monly known as beer) ; twelve sumpter horses, each 
with a groom at its head and a monkey on its back ; 
eight coffers to carry the chancellor's gold and silver 
plate and miscellaneous utensils, chests containing 
cash for current expenses, and one sumpter horse 
preceding the rest, laden with the sacred vessels and 
altar ornaments and books. At the head of the 

1 Fitzst. iii. 29-33. The double motive which prompted this 
splendour comes out clearly in the language of Fitzstephen : 
" ut honoretur persona mittentis in misso et missi sua in se ", 
personal vanity and national pride both had their share. 

R. 6 


whole procession came two and fifty footmen in 
companies of six or ten, singing as they went! in 
English fashion. Behind the cars came the knights 
and clerks, riding two by two; and the chan- 
cellor with a few personal friends brought up the 

The magnificence of the chancellor on the way was 
only equalled by his munificence at the end of his 
journey. On landing he had sent word of his arrival to 
the king of France, and had received a reply appoint- 
ing the time and place of meeting at Paris. Louis, 
bent on giving his guest a royal welcome, had for- 
bidden his subjects to sell anything to the chancellor 
or his agents ; but Thomas was equally bent on 
keeping up his reputation. He baffled the king's 
precautions by sending his men in disguise under a 
false name to buy provisions in the neighbouring 
markets of Lagny, Corbeil, Pontoise, and S. Denys. 
His stratagem was successful. When he entered 
Paris to take up his abode at the Temple, his 
attendants met him with the news that he would 
find ready stored there three days' provisions for a 
thousand men. The extravagance of his table is 
almost incredible. A hundred pounds sterling for 
one dish of eels is literally a fabulous price ; and it 
is hard to avoid a suspicion that the amount was 
exaggerated as the story passed from mouth to mouth. 
But Thomas' generosity was not confined to the 
court and retinue of his royal host. The quondam 
student of Paris gave practical proof of his interest 
in the university to which he had once owned 
allegiance by extending his bounty to the scholars, 


the doctors, and (significant touch of human nature) 
the hungry creditors of the English students. 

Thomas had not spent in vain. The embassy 
was a success, and Thomas returned in triumph, 
winning fresh laurels on his way home by a less 
peaceful exploit, the capture and imprisonment of 
Wido de la Val, a notorious robber-chief, whom 
he left in chains at Neuf-marche 1 . Fitzstephen's 
graphic narrative however fails just where a trust- 
worthy guide is most wanted. He throws no light 
upon the progress of the negotiations. He merely 
states at the outset that the king had discussed the 
project of the marriage alliance with the chancellor 
and other magnates of the realm, and that the 
chancellor was chosen to conduct the negotiations 
and accepted the responsibility 2 . The result he 
dismisses with the brief statement that Thomas got 
what he asked at Paris 3 . The only biographer who 
refers to this mission at all is Herbert of Bosham, 
and he only mentions incidentally the fact that 
Thomas won from the king of France by a marriage 
alliance five strongholds on the confines of France 
and Normandy, which were considered to belong by 

1 Fitzst. iii. 29-33. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 29: deliberavit quandoque rex Anglorum cum 
cancellario et aliis quibusdam regni sui magnatibus petere a rege 
Francorum filiam ejus Margaretam matrimonio copulandam filio 
suo Henrico. Placuit consilium...Ad tantam petitionem tanto 
principi faciendam quis mittendus erat nisi cancellarius? Eligitur, 

3 ibid. 33: legations sua feliciter functus est ; propositum 
assecutus est ; quod petiit, ei concessum est. 



right of old to the Norman duchy, namely, Gisors 
and four other fortresses 1 . 

It is the evidence of the contemporary chroniclers 
that enables us to piece together the facts of the 
case. Henry crossed into Normandy in August, 
1158, met Louis at the river Epte to discuss the 
question of peace and this alliance, paid a visit to 
Louis at Paris, and returned with the infant Margaret. 
So says the Norman chronicler Robert of Mount 
S. Michael 2 . But Ralph de Dice to distinctly asserts 
that it was Thomas who procured the consent to the 
marriage and went in state to Paris to fetch the little 
bride-elect 8 . The language of Fitzstephen and 

1 Herb. iii. 175 : quam industrie munitiones quinque munitis- 
simas, in Franciae et Normanniae sitas confinio, domino suo regi, 
ad cujus tamen jus ab antique spectare dignoscebantur, a rege 
Francorum per matrimonium, sine ferro, sine gladio, absque 
lancea, absque pugna, in omni regum dilectione et pace revo- 
caverit, Gizortium scilicet, castrum munitissimum, et alia 
quattuor. The Icelandic Saga speaks vaguely of some occasion 
on which "by his wisdom and law-pleading, Thomas brought 
about a settlement as to what line of landmark had been laid 
down of old between France and Normandy" (i. 57). The rectifi- 
cation of the frontier thus attributed to Thomas must be the 
arrangements made by him with Louis in 115&-1160 as to the 
possession of the Vexin. 

2 Robert de Monte, A.D. 1158 (Twysden, 994): rex mense 
Augusto transfretavit in Normanniam et locutus est cum rege 
Francorum Ludovico super Eptam de pace et de matrimonio 
contrahendo inter filium suum Henricum et filiam regis Franco- 
rum Margaretam, &c. 

3 Diceto: Thomas regis cancellarius procuravit ut Henricus 
primogenitus regis Anglorum Margaritam...sponsam acciperet 
(Capitula "Imaginum Historiarum," A.D. 1158). Thomas regis 
cancellarius in apparatu magno venit Parisius Margaritam... 


Herbert also points to a distinct mission entrusted 
to Thomas and executed by him alone. It may have 
preceded and paved the way for the conference 
between Louis and Henry in August, 1158; or it 
may have followed that conference and dealt with 
the details of an alliance which had been already 
agreed upon in general terms by the two kings in 
person. The former solution of the difficulty seems 
preferable, for Fitzstephen speaks of Thomas as 
landing on the French coast, in words which seem 
to imply a special mission direct from England 1 . It 
is quite possible that the two alternatives may be 
combined. Thomas may perhaps have been respon- 
sible both for the first overtures and for the final 
settlement of the conditions, the conference between 
Henry and Louis coming between the initial and the 
final stages of the negotiations 2 . In whatever way 
the alliance was arranged, its terms were distinctly 
to Henry's advantage. Thomas succeeded in inducing 
Louis to send his infant daughter into Normandy 
to live under Henry's charge until she reached a 
marriageable age ; and she was entrusted to the 
care of Robert de Neubourg, one of Henry's vassals 3 . 

accepturus uxorem Henrico, &c. ("Imagines Historiarum," A.D. 

1 Fitzst. iii. 31 : appulsus in transmarinis, statim praemiserat 
domino regi Francorum cancellarius mandans quod ad eum 
veniret. Lingard (ii. 57) sends Thomas to Paris first to lull 
Louis' suspicions of Henry's plans against Nantes, and makes the 
king follow "to ratify the engagements of his minister," including 
the marriage alliance. 

2 Lord Lyttelton seems to take this view in his Life of 
Henry II. (ii. 82-84). 

3 John Brompton, 1050 (Twysden). William of Newburgh, 


With regard to her dowry the Vexin with its castles, 
Gisors, Neufle, and Neuf-chatel Thomas had to be 
content with a compromise. The coveted fortresses 
were sequestrated in the hands of certain Knights 
Templars nominated by the two kings, to be sur- 
rendered to Henry at the time of the marriage 1 . 
But the neutrality of these strongholds, which com- 
manded Henry's frontier, was a distinct gain second 
only in importance to their actual possession. 
Thomas had done good work for his royal master. 
Even Louis' anxiety for the alliance could scarcely 
have led him to make such substantial concessions 
without the most skilful diplomacy on the part of 

The reversion of the Vexin was only a distant 
prospect; but there were other benefits to be derived 
immediately from this alliance. Gervase 2 distinctly 
states that it was through the agency of Thomas 
that Henry obtained Louis' permission to enter 

bk. ii. ch. 24. It is Robert de Monte who gives the guardian's 

1 Brompton, 1050. Ralph de Diceto, A.D. 1160. Robert de 
Monte, A.D. 1158. William of Newburgh says that Henry 
managed all this through a man of great ability, his chancellor 
Thomas (bk. ii. ch. 24). 

2 Gervase, Chron. A.D. 1158: 'eo tempore per industrium 
Thomae,' Henry obtained Louis' permission 'ut quasi senescallus 
regis Francorum intraret Britanniam et inter se inquietos et 
funebre bellum exercentes coram se convocaret et pacificaret.' 
This was Henry's first entrance into Brittany, he adds, and it 
ended in an accession of territory, civitatem de Nantes ad jus 
suae dominationis inflexit. Cp. William of Newburgh, bk. ii. 
ch. 8. 


Brittany as seneschal 1 of France and quell the 
disturbance then rife in that practically independent 
province by the assertion of his authority as repre- 
sentative of the suzerain of France, enforced, if 
necessary, by an appeal to arms. The whole army of 
Normandy was summoned to Avranches, to advance 
against Conan earl of Brittany in the event of his 
refusing to submit; but in September Conan sur- 
rendered the city of Nantes, which he had seized, and 
acknowledged Henry as earl of Nantes and overlord 
of Brittany. In November Henry escorted Louis in 
state through Normandy and Brittany, "not now 
as a vassal requiring help but with all the pomp of 
an equal king 2 ," and ended by paying him a visit 
and accepting the hospitality of his palace at Paris 3 . 

It was however a precarious peace, and it proved Campaign 
short-lived. The summer of 1159 found Louis 

Henry in collision, with Thomas once more to the 1159. 

front, this time as an impetuous and energetic 

1 The Count of Anjou was hereditary seneschal of France, 
according to Eobert de Monte. Giraldus Cambrensis mentions 
Geoffrey of Anjou as seneschal. But the office was usually 
executed by a deputy (Stubbs, Const. Hist. vol. i.). See especially 
Miss Norgate, England under Angevin Kings, i. 450 n. 

2 Mrs J. R. Green, Henry the Second, p. 34. 

3 Gervase, A.D. 1158. Robert de Monte and Ralph de Diceto, 
A.D. 1158. Among the list of persons mentioned by Robert de 
Monte as present on the occasion of the charter granted by 
Henry to his own abbey, Mount S. Michael, occurs the name 
of "Gervase, a clerk of Thomas the chancellor" (identified by 
some with Gervase the chronicler, but without sufficient evi- 
dence, see Stubbs, preface to Gervase in the Rolls Series). 
Apparently the chancery clerks were on the spot in attendance 
upon the king, and the chancellor was possibly not far away. 


soldier. Henry was determined to enforce the claim 
of his wife Eleanor to the earldom of Toulouse, now 
in the possession of Count Raymond de S. Gilles. 
Louis had himself asserted and followed up this 
claim when Eleanor was his wife, but had been 
compelled to desist. He had come to terms with 
Raymond and given him his sister Constance in 
marriage ; and now Raymond looked to his royal 
brother-in-law for support in his resistance to 
Henry's aggression. Louis responded to his appeal, 
and for once broke through the meshes of the net in 
which the diplomacy of Thomas and Henry had 
involved him. The two kings met twice in con- 
ference, but failed to come to terms; and in June 
Henry marched south from Poictiers with a magnifi- 
cent army at his back and a goodly array of princes 
and nobles in his train, including his ally Malcolm 
Thomas king of Scotland 1 . But Chancellor Thomas outshone 
them all, as he rode at the head of a picked body 
of seven hundred knights raised from his own 
household. If we may credit the panegyrical 
language of John of Salisbury in the closing passage 
of a work dedicated to the chancellor at this veiy 
time, Thomas was the moving spirit of the whole 
expedition 2 . It is probable that, if his advice had 

1 Robert de Monte, A.D. 1159. 

2 Job. S. Polycraticw, viii. 25 : rex illustris Anglorum Henri- 
cus secundus, maximus regum Britanniae, si initiis gestorum 
fuerit exitns concolor, circa Garunnam et (ut dicitur) te auctore te 
duce fulminat et Tholosam felici cingens obsidioue non modo 
provinciales usque ad Rhodanum et Alpes territat, sed munitioni- 
bus diruptis populisque subactis, quasi universis praesens im- 
mineat, timore principes Hispanos concussit et Gallos. John 


been followed, the war might have been ended by 
one bold stroke. The king of France had thrown 
himself into Toulouse with a handful of troops, and 
the impetuous chancellor suggested a sudden attack 
upon the city, with the almost certain prospect of 
taking Louis prisoner. The immediate advantage 
of such a prize was great ; but Henry looked beyond 
to its ultimate consequences. Louis was his suzerain 
lord, and to violate the principle of feudal allegiance 
by drawing the sword against the person of Louis 
was to set a dangerous precedent for his own dis- 
contented vassals. Perhaps too Henry had an eye 
to the possibility of his son's succession to the 
French throne through his future bride. The 
chancellor contended that Louis had forfeited the 
privileges of a feudal lord by lending open assistance 
to Henry's enemies in contravention of the existing 
alliance between the two. But Henry held reso- 
lutely to his decision 1 , and refrained from attacking 
the city. Reinforcements had arrived for Louis in 

implores the chancellor to keep his character unstained: in tantis 
rerum tumultibus, quaeso, custodi innocentiam, et vide et dicta et 
praedica aequitatem, nee amore nee odio, timore vel spe, declines 
a via recta. The words in italics evidently refer to Thomas' 
voice in the royal counsels. 

1 Fitzst. iii. 33, 34 : vana superstitione et reverentia rex tentus 
consilio aliorum, super urbem in qua esset dominus suus rex 
Francorum irruere noluit ; dicente in contrarium cancellario, quod 
personam domini rex Francorum ibi deposuisset eo quod supra 
pacta conventa hostem se ibidem ei opposuisset. 

Robert de Monte, A.D. 1159, says that Henry, acting upon the 
advice of his council, did not besiege the king of France, but 
beleaguered the surrounding castles. Evidently Thomas was not 
the only trusted adviser at Henry's side. 


the meantime, and Henry withdrew his army. The 
expedition had proved a failure as far as concerned 
its primary purpose, the conquest of Toulouse 1 ; but 
minor successes had been already won. Cahors and 
other strongholds in the neighbourhood of Toulouse 
some the original possessions of its earl, others 
conquests made from the partisans of Henry had 
fallen into the hands of the English army ; and the 
chancellor remained behind, with his own contingent 
and Henry earl of Essex the royal constable, to 
keep a firm hold on these acquisitions, the rest of 
the English barons declining the task. Thomas 
more than fulfilled his commission. He stormed 
three other strongholds in helmet and cuirass at the 
head of his men, and did not rejoin his royal master 
until after he had crossed the Garonne and exacted 
the submission of the province in the king's name 2 . 
Thomas again figured prominently in the later 

1 Fitzst. iii. 34: impos voti et inefficax propositi rediit. 
There is a marked discrepancy between the original authorities 
as to the extent of Henry's forbearance. Most of the chroniclers 
(William of Newburgh, Robert de Monte, Ralph de Diceto, John 
Brompton) represent him as refraining altogether from an actual 
siege. Herbert of Bosham is not quite clear ; he says, rege 
differente obsidionem (iii. 176). But Gervase (Chron. A.D. 1159, 
col. 1381, Twysden) and Roger of Hoveden say that Henry lay 
before the city besieging it for four months (from S. John the 
Baptist's Day, June 24, to All Saints' Day, November 1), and 
merely refrained from any attempt to take it by storm. The 
former statement seems better supported. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 34, the fullest account throughout of Thomas' 
share in the campaign. Robert de Monte, A.D. 1159, mentions his 
being left in charge of the garrisons of the newly acquired 


campaign on the Norman frontier in the neighbour- The cam- 
hood of Gisors, where Henry was winning 
fortifying new castles at the expense of Louis' 
northern domains. In addition to the seven hundred 
knights of his own following, the chancellor now 
brought into the field twelve hundred mercenary 
troops, and four thousand men besides, the latter 
enlisted in the service of his knights. The cost of 
their maintenance was a heavy drain on his purse. 
Each knight received three pounds a day for the 
keep of his men and horses, and dined himself at 
the chancellor's mess. They were the very flower of 
the king's army 1 , none so brave in action as they 
were, none so prompt to obey orders. The chancellor 
was himself the foremost in the fray. Deacon as he 
was, he rode to the charge at the head of his men, 
and distinguished himself by unhorsing a famous 
French knight, Engelram de Trie, whose war-horse 
he carried off as the prize of victory z . In fact 

1 It can scarcely be called the English army except as being 
the army of the king of England. It was a motley host drawn 
from various countries, England, Normandy, Anjou, Aquitaine, 
Brittany, and Scotland. The English barons were in their 
places under the flag of their lord the king, but the knights, 
townsmen, and yeomen, who should have followed their lords the 
barons, were left at home and replaced by mercenaries bought 
with the proceeds of the scutage now levied for the first time as a 
commutation for personal service. Kobert de Monte, A.D. 1159. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 35. Cp. the evidence of the French monk 
Gamier an eye-witness of his exploits in Normandy : 

En Guascuingne fu-il lung tens pur guerreier 
As Guascins; kovint de lur chasteus lesser. 
En Normendie r'ont sun seinur grant mester, 
Et jo I'vi sor Franceis plusur feiz cJievaucher. 
De ses bensuignes fist le Rei mult avauncer. 


Thomas fought as to the manner born : soldiering 
might have been his destiny. Even his devoted 
and partial biographer Grim dwells with regretful 
emphasis on the change from the man of peace to 
the man of blood which came with his elevation to 
the chancellorship. " Who can tell," writes Grim, 
" how many suffered death at his hands, how many 
the loss of all their wealth ? Surrounded by a 
valiant body of knights, he attacked whole states, 
destroyed cities and towns, gave villages and farms 
to the greedy flames without one thought of pity, 
and proved merciless to the enemies of his lord the 
king, in whatever quarter they rose 1 ." 

1 Grim, ii. 365. The passage has been taken to refer to 
Thomas' share in the expulsion of the Flemish free-lances from 
England in 1155 ; but it falls in much better with what we know 
of his action in the French campaigns of 1159. Froude in the 
Nineteenth Century for 1877 took a strange view of the passage 
and its application. "Such words," he wrote, "give a new 
aspect to the demand afterwards made that he should answer for 
his proceedings as chancellor, and lend a new meaning to his 
unwillingness to reply." Freeman disposed of this insinuation 
by pointing out that Froude had ignored Grim's distinct state- 
ment that the severity of the chancellor was directed against the 
king's enemies. In the reprint of Froude's articles in his Short 
Studies (iv. 30, 31) the above quotation is omitted, and Grim's 
language is explained as referring to " the war of Toulouse or the 
suppression of a revolt which followed in Aquitaine." But 
Froude's argument against the application of Grim's words to the 
expulsion of the Flemings is a flagrant inaccuracy. "The work 
of suppressing the Flemings," he says, "is distinctly said to have 
been completed by Henry within three months of his coronation, 
and before Beckct became chancellor." Fitzstephen is the 
authority in question, and his exact words are, consilio cancel- 
larii et cleri et baronum regni qui pacis bonum volebant, infra 
tres primos menses coronationis regis, &c. (iii. 19). 


The war was not of long duration. It ended in The peace 
a truce which lasted from November 1159 to May 
1160, when a formal peace was concluded 1 . A copy 
of the treaty is now extant, and Thomas appears 
among the list of witnesses. The terms were de- 
cidedly advantageous to Henry. The possession of 
the Vexin was guaranteed to him as soon as ever 
the marriage of Henry and Margaret should take 
place ; and his acquisitions in the south of France 
were confirmed. In October the two kings met 
again on friendly terms, and the boy Henry did 
homage to Louis for the duchy of Normandy 1 '. In 
November 1160 Henry reaped the fruits of Thomas' 
labours in 1158. Alarmed by Louis' remarriage 
with Adelais of Blois, a niece of Stephen the late 
king of England, Henry obtained a dispensation 
from the cardinal legates, Henry of Pisa and 
William of Pavia, had the marriage of the two 
children solemnised at Neubourg on the 2nd of 

1 Robert de Monte, A.D. 1159, 1160. The treaty is preserved 
in the Harleian MSS. at the British Museum, and is reproduced 
by Lord Lyttelton in an appendix to his Life of Henry II. It is 
connected in the MSS. with a selection of Thomas' letters an 
indication perhaps that he was regarded as responsible for the 
negotiation of the treaty. 

John of Salisbury, writing to Thomas some time in 1160, 
alludes to his influence in suggestive language: si enim vera sunt 
quae dicuntur a redeuntibus...rex et tota curia adeo pendent 
de consilio vestro ut nee spes pads immineat nisi earn vestra 
prudentia praefiguret (Ep. 9, v. 13). This can scarcely refer to 
anything but the relations between Henry and Louis. 

2 Eobert de Monte, A.D. 1160. Joh. S. Ep. to Bartholomew, 
bishop of Exeter (Ep. 461, vi. 507). 


November, and promptly relieved the Templars of 
the long-coveted castles in the Vexin 1 . 

The There is one other incident in the dynastic 

Flemish anna i s o f this period in which Thomas plays a 

mamage : J 

opposition prominent part, this time in decided opposition to 
iaf " Henry. A project was set on foot for the marriage 
of Matthew (a brother of Philip count of Flanders, 
and a cousin of Henry) with Mary the daughter of 
Stephen of Blois. The intended bride was abbess 
of Romsey in Hampshire, bound by her vows to the 
religious life of maiden sisterhood. Henry was bent 
on the marriage for political reasons. Thomas 
opposed it on religious grounds, but Henry ignored 
the chancellor's protest and insisted on having his 
own way. The marriage took place in May 1160 2 . 

1 Ralph de Diceto, A.D. 1160 (Imag. Hist.}, says the bride was 
three years of age, the bridegroom seven. 

2 Eobert de Monte, A.D. 1160. Diceto, A.D. 1160. Robert 
calls it "inauditum exemplum." Herbert of Bosham (iii. 328) 
refers to the fact in detail by way of explaining the enmity 
between Thomas and Philip which made Thomas afraid to set 
foot in Flanders as an exile. Causa etiam qua in illis partibus 
prodi metuerat, eo quod domino rege Anglorum procurante, 
Matthaeus, frater comitis Flandrensis Philippi, tune Boloniae 
comes, cum abbatissa quadam, filia Stephani quondam regis 
Anglorum, matriinonium profanum et omnibus post futuris 
saeculis detestandum contraxerat, archipraesule, tune regis cancel- 
lario, propter facti enormitatem contradicente et quoad potuit 
reclamante; unde et comes Boloniae ex tune perfecto eum odio 
oderat. Robert de Monte explains that the earldom of Boulogne 
fell to Matthew as his wife's dower. Lyttelton (Life of Henry II. 
ii. 105-107) says that the papal schism made it difficult to obtain 
a dispensation, and the lady was conveyed secretly from her 
convent with Henry's consent and apparently her own too. But 
I cannot find any authority for these particulars. 


It is a significant incident for two reasons. It is the 
only recorded occasion on which Thomas distinctly 
avowed his ecclesiastical scruples while he was 
chancellor 1 ; and it is the second occasion on which 
Thomas opposed Henry in a matter of political 
importance and found his opposition vain 2 . 

1 Fitzstephen (iii. 142) tells how Le Breton, one of the arch- 
bishop's murderers, dealt a brutal blow at his victim with the 
words: "Take that for the love of my lord William, the king's 
brother." Thomas had opposed and prevented the marriage of 
William and the countess of Warenne on the ecclesiastical 
ground of consanguinity, as Fitzstephen explains ; but the date of 
his opposition is not known. Miss Lambert (Nineteenth Century, 
Feb. 1892, "The Real Thomas Becket") places it between 1159 
and 1163 at the outside, very soon after his consecration, if not 
during his chancellorship. Fitzstephen says, ' archiepiscopus omnes sui (i.e. friends of William) archiepiscopo 
inimici facti sunt.' 

2 The first occasion was before the walls of Toulouse (p. 89). 



Suppres- THERE can be no doubt that the foundations of 

anarchy. Henry's later reforms were laid during the first 
eight years of his reign, while Thomas was chancellor. 
But the first task that lay before the new king was 
the suppression of the anarchy that was rife through- 
out the realm. The very idea of law and justice 
had to be restored before the methods of its ad- 
ministration could be improved. The work of 
clearance had first to be carried out before the 
work of reconstruction could begin ; and Henry 
with the chancellor at his side lost no time in 
attacking the disorder. The chroniclers paint a 
vivid picture of the sufferings of the nation. One 
sample will suffice from the pages of the biographer 
who records so distinctly the fact of the chancellor's 
co-operation in the good work of restoring peace and 
order. The storm of war had swept over the whole 
realm. In almost every third township was a newly 
fortified castle, the den of a robber-baron. The 
native nobles of English and Norman birth had 


been driven from their inheritance, and the strange 
mercenaries, the Fleming and his foreign comrades, 
had fastened upon Kent and a large part of the 
kingdom besides. The anarchy of well-nigh twenty 
years had left little hope that the foreigner would 
ever be expelled, and the peace and dignity of the 
realm restored. It was a desperate task for a new 
king who was yet a youth. But "by the merciful 
providence of God, by the wise counsels of the 
chancellor, the clergy, and those barons of the realm 
who longed for the blessing of peace, within three 
months of the king's coronation" the thing was done. 
" William of Ypres, whose hand lay so sore upon 
Kent, withdrew in tears ; the Flemings sailed away, 
every man of them, bag and baggage ; the castles 
throughout England all came down with a rush, 
except the old towers and fortresses that served to 
keep the peace ; the crown of England regained all 
that it had lost ; the disinherited were restored to 
their fathers' rights; the brigands forsook their 
forest dens for the open town, and, sharing gladly in 
the universal peace, beat their swords into plough- 
shares and their spears into pruning-hooks. The 
lesser thieves, frightened into honesty by the sight 
of the gallows, put their hands to farming or 
mechanic trades. There was peace on every side ; 
shields were no longer made at home, but fetched 
from abroad, while the wares of England once more 
poured into the foreign mart ; the merchant left the 
shelter of town and fortress to wend his way to the 
market fair, and the Jew to find his creditors, 
without a thought of danger." 

R. 7 


" Thanks to the energy and wisdom of this same 
chancellor, with the help of the clergy, and earls, 
and barons, the noble realm of England renewed 
its life like the freshness of spring. Holy Church 
received the honour that was her due ; vacant sees 
and abbeys were bestowed upon deserving men 
without a taint of simony ; the king prospered in 
all his doings by the favour of the King of kings ; 
the realm of England was rich in plenty; the hill- 
sides were cultivated; the valleys were thick with 
corn, the pastures full of oxen and the folds of 
sheep 1 ." 

Some allowance must no doubt be made for the 
rhetorical and poetical element in this picture of the 
golden age restored to " merrie England." But the 
main facts, the suppression of the turbulent barons, 
the destruction of their castles, the expulsion of the 
mercenaries, the summary execution of justice, 
stand out clearly in the more sober language of the 
chroniclers 2 . Six months sufficed to work the change, 
and convince barons and people that the sceptre was 
once more wielded by a strong-minded and strong- 
handed king, whose efforts were ably seconded by a 
little band of men after his own heart. We know 
no details of the chancellor's share in the work ; in 
fact the chroniclers do not mention his name in 
connexion with the restoration of law and order ; but 
Fitzstephen's distinct assertion cannot be explained 
away, and even after admitting that Fitzstephen 

1 Fitzst. iii. 18, 19. 

2 Gervase, Chron. A.D. 1154. Eobert de Monte, A.D. 1154. 
William of Newburgh, bk. ii. ch. 1. 


may have credited him with too large a share, enough 
will remain to account for the fact that the chan- 
cellor won the favour of all classes alike, king, clergy, 
barons, knights, and people 1 . 

Peace once restored, the judicial and financial 
machinery of the kingdom was set working on the 
old lines. The administrative system of Henry I.'s 
last years was resumed as a preliminary step to 
further development. Nigel bishop of Ely was re- 
called as treasurer to the Exchequer, from which 
Stephen had driven him in 1139. Richard de Luci 
and Robert earl of Leicester were appointed jus- 
ticiars, and Thomas of London was made chancellor. 

The chancellor's share in the civil administration 
gained both in extent and in importance in the 
hands of Thomas. It falls mainly under the two 
heads of judicature and finance, but not entirely. 
The scutage assessed on all tenants in capite of the Scutage of 
king in 1159, as a commutation for personal service, f eu dal. 
owes its importance in constitutional history not so 
much to its financial aspect as a source of revenue 
for military purposes as to its political results at 
home. It may have been merely an expedient 
suggested by the exigencies of a possibly long cam- 
paign, which made it advisable to substitute standing 
mercenary forces for the brief service of the English 
feudal levy, which was at liberty to return home at 
the end of forty days. The chroniclers attribute the 

1 Fitzst. iii. 20: cancellarii summus erat in clero, militia et 
populo regni favor. This passage follows close on the panegyric 
translated above. Cp. Fitzst. iii. 24: cancellarius regi, clero, 
militiae et populo erat acceptissimus. 



measure to Henry's consideration for the prosperity 
of his people. He was unwilling, says Robert de 
Monte, to disturb the country knights or the citizens 
of the rising towns or the yeomen of the land 1 . But 
whatever its real or apparent motive was, in its 
results the measure was more or less fatal to the 
power of the barons at home, and it is scarcely 
possible to avoid the conclusion that it was part of 
" the anti-feudal policy which was hereditary in our 
kings since the Conqueror dealt the greatest of all 
blows to feudalism at Salisbury 2 ." The question of 
Thomas' share in this institution of scutage will be 
considered more fully under the head of ecclesiastical 
affairs ; it is sufficient here to note that the exaction 
was attributed to him by some of his contemporaries, 
who regarded him as either the author or the instru- 
ment of the scheme. 

Municipal The chancellor's name is connected with one 
other branch of national development which can 
only be regarded as financial in this respect, that 
it was made to contribute to the royal treasury 3 , 

1 Robert de Monte, A.D. 1159: rex igitur Henricus iturus in 
expeditionem praedictam et considerans langitudinem et dijftculta- 
tem viae, nolens vexare agrarios milites nee burgensium nee rusti- 
corum multitudinem, sumptis LX solidis Andegavensibus in 
Normannia de feudo uniuscuj usque loricae, et de reliquis omnibus 
tarn in Normannia quam in Anglia sive etiam aliis terris suis 
secundum hoc quod ei visum fuit, capitales barones suos cum 
paucis secum duxit, solidarios vero milites innumeros. 

2 Freeman, Contemp. Review, vol. 32, p. 137. 

3 Gilds were continually fining for the retention or extension 
of their privileges. In the third year of Henry II.'s reign the 
citizens of York pay 40 marks for the temporary privilege of not 
pleading causes outside the county till the king's return. The 


and that is the growth of the municipal system. 
Several of the borough charters granted by Henry 
II. bear the signature of " Thomas the chancellor " 
at the head of the list of witnesses. Winchester, 
Lincoln, Nottingham, Oxford, all had the privileges 
of their merchant gilds confirmed and extended 
during the chancellorship of Thomas 1 ; and it is 
only natural to suppose that he had a voice in the 
granting or drawing up of the charters to which 
he set the royal seal and his own signature. 

The incidental notices here and there of Thomas' Financial 
activity in the sphere of judicature and finance willJ M(Kcia j 
be best explained by a preliminary sketch of the system. 
constitutional framework into which the chancellor- 
ship fitted. In addition to the great Curia or 
national council of the early Norman kings, which 
met regularly three times a year and on certain 
special occasions besides, and consisted theoretically 
of all tenants in chief, though practically only the 
greater barons as a rule attended, we find from the 
reign of Henry I. onwards a central system of 
administration consisting of two supreme courts 
of judicature and finance, called respectively the 
Curia Regis and the Exchequer 2 . The anarchy of 

weavers (telarii) of London, Nottingham and Lincoln pay various 
sums pro gilda sua in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years of the reign. 
Pipe Rolls 2, 3, 4 Henry II. pp. 29, 39, 137, 153, etc. Madox 
(Exchequer, ch. xi.) gives a full list of liberties acquired by fine 
under Henry I. 

1 Stubbs, Setect Charters, pp. 164-168. 

2 Their early development is to a great extent a matter of 
conjecture. They have been regarded from one point of view as 
"committees of the national council," from another as "mere 


Stephen's reign paralysed the executive powers, and 
no official records of the administration of that 
period have survived. The extant rolls of the 
Exchequer begin with the 31st year of Henry I., 
and the next is the 2nd year of Henry II., when 
law and order once more prevailed. Our knowledge 
therefore of the administrative machinery as re- 
stored at the outset of Henry II.'s reign is largely 
derived by inference from the records of its procedure 
at the close of his grandfather's reign 1 . 

The Curia Regis or supreme court of judicature 
and the Exchequer or supreme court of finance were 
practically identical in their personal staff. The 
Exchequer consisted of the great officers of the royal 
household, the justiciar (its president), the chan- 
cellor, the constable, two chamberlains, the marshal 
and the treasurer, with certain other persons specially 
appointed by the king on the ground of their legal 
ability, sometimes nobles, sometimes churchmen, 

sessions of the king's household ministers." The former theory 
emphasizes the English element, the latter the Norman ; but it is 
almost impossible to trace with certainty the fusion of the two 
elements in the new organisation. Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 
376, 377. 

1 The Pipe Eolls of the Exchequer give the particulars of 
work done, but their evidence would be almost unintelligible 
without the light thrown upon the development of the administra- 
tive powers by the Dialogus de Scaccario, an exhaustive treatise 
begun in 1178 by Richard bishop of London, treasurer of the 
Exchequer, the son of Nigel bishop of Ely (his predecessor at the 
treasury) and the great-nephew of that Roger bishop of Salisbury 
whose genius it was that shaped the original organisation of the 
Exchequer under Henry I. The Dialogus is reprinted in Stubbs' 
Select Charters, pp. 168-248. 


all entitled "barons of the Exchequer," and each 
having a definite place and definite functions of his 
own. The Curia Regis similarly consisted of the 
same great household officials with a few other 
persons chosen by the king for their knowledge of 
law. But in this court there was no rigid division 
of labour such as existed in the Exchequer, and the 
president was the king himself, the justiciar pre- 
siding only in the king's absence. The rest of the 
members of the Curia Regis were also called 
' justitiarii,' the president being distinguished by the 
epithet ' summus,' ' magnus,' or ' capitalist 

There was also a close connexion between the 
business of the two courts. The fines paid or 
remitted in the Curia were recorded in the Ex- 
chequer. In fact the work of the Exchequer was to 
a large extent judicial. The fines from the local 
courts were an important item in the sheriffs' 
accounts which were audited by the Exchequer, and 
in the readjustment of taxation questions of owner- 
ship frequently came before the barons of the 
Exchequer for legal decision. "So intimate is the 
connexion of judicature with finance under the 
Norman kings," and, it may be added, the early 
Plantagenets, " that we scarcely need the comments 
of the historians to guide us to the conclusion that 
it was mainly for the sake of the profits that justice 
was administered at all 1 ." 

The Curia Regis was the instrument through 
which the judicial power of the Crown was exerted. 
It was a supreme court of appeal from the decision 
1 Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 386, 387. 


of the local courts, and a court of primary recourse 
in the case of tenants in chief of the Crown who 
were powerful enough to intimidate the local au- 
thorities, and also in the case of suits which called 
for a more equitable method of procedure than was 
afforded by the strict customary process of the 
provincial courts. In addition to this, it exerted a 
direct control over the action of the local judicature, 
by the visits of its itinerant justiciars. 

Judicial The revival of the judicial system 1 was one of 

fe f Henry's first anxieties. It followed immediately or 
chancellor, perhaps accompanied the active measures of re- 
pression that marked the first months of his reign ; 
and even without positive evidence of the fact we 
might reasonably have concluded that the chancellor 
whose help proved so valuable in the suppression of 
anarchy would have had some share at least in the 
restoration and administration of the long-forgotten 
forms of justice. But we are not left to conjecture. 
There are ample indications of the chancellor's 
judicial activity. They fall under three heads, 

(1) his place as a member of the Curia Regis, 

(2) his work as an itinerant justiciar, and (3) a 
group of less precise allusions which were at one 
time regarded as establishing the existence of a 
distinct court of judicature presided over by the 

(1) The Curia Regis in the earlier years of 

1 William of Newburgh, bk. ii. ch. 1: publicae quoque 
disciplinae in primis sollicitudinem (rex) habuit; et ut legum 
vigor in Anglia revivisceret qui sub rege Stephano exstinctus 
sepultusque videbatur, cura propensiore satagebat. 


Henry II.'s reign seems to have been little more (i) Tlie 
than what it was under Henry L, " a tribunal of " n . a 


exceptional resort to which appeals though in- case of 
creasing in number were still comparatively rare, 
and the action of which is scarcely distinguishable 
from that of the national council 1 ." The king is its 
nominal and frequently its actual head 2 ; and the 
chancellor appears in attendance as an officer of the 
royal household 3 . A remarkable example of the 
working of this court is preserved in the chronicle of 
Battle Abbey, an instance of royal intervention in 
an ecclesiastical dispute. It will recur again in 
estimating the chancellor's ecclesiastical policy ; but 
it is interesting at this point as a glimpse of the 
Curia Regis in action, and an indication of the 
chancellor's position in the court. The case was 
briefly as follows. Hilary bishop of Chichester 
claimed the right of exerting his episcopal juris- 
diction over Battle Abbey, which lay within his 
diocese ; but Walter the abbot of Battle (a brother 
of Richard de Luci the justiciar) resisted the 
bishop's claim on the ground that the original 
privileges granted by its founder, William the 
Conqueror, included exemption from all episcopal 
authority. Early in this reign Henry II. had 
himself granted a charter confirming the privileges 

1 Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 598. 

2 Dial. Scacc. i. iv. : Regis curia, in qua ipse in propria 
persona jura decernit. Henry II. frequently heard cases in 

3 Fitzstephen (iii. 18) says that it was one of the chancellor's 
privileges, ut omnibus regis adsit conciliis et etiam non vocatus se 


of the abbey; but the bishop procured from Pope 
Adrian IV. (the only Englishman that ever sat in the 
Papal chair) a brief requiring the abbot to submit to 
the episcopal jurisdiction. The two parties met to 
discuss the question at Chichester, but without any 
decisive result ; and both appealed to the king, who 
resolved to hear the case in person on his return 
from Normandy. The trial was held in May 1157. 
The king had kept Whitsuntide at Bury S. Edmund's, 
wearing his crown in solemn state, surrounded by 
court and council. Owing to the pressure of other 
business he postponed the trial until his visit to 
Colchester, where the attendance was even greater. 
On the Friday the king heard the case in the 
chapter-house after mass. Only those summoned 
by personal invitation of the king were present, 
Thomas the chancellor, Henry of Essex the king's 
constable, Richard de Luci the justiciar, Richard de 
Humez the constable, Warren Fitzgerald, Nicolas 
de Sigillo, Ralph the physician, and William the 
king's brother. Richard de Luci opened the pro- 
ceedings by a brief statement of his brother's case. 
The king then required the abbot to produce his 
charters, and the chancellor read them out one by 
one, the original charter of William I., then those 
of William II. and Henry L, and last of all the 
charter granted by Henry II. himself. The king 
carefully inspected them all. The chancellor called 
upon the abbot to reply to the bishop's assertion 
that he had made a profession of obedience at 
Chichester; and the abbot denied that he had 
yielded any of his privileges. His brother Richard 


then spoke on behalf of the abbey as a memorial of 
Norman prowess. Robert of Leicester supported 
this argument, and the king pronounced himself so 
far distinctly in favour of the abbey. The court 
then adjourned. 

The case was resumed on the following Tuesday 
in the presence of the king and a council augmented 
by the attendance of several ecclesiastical dignitaries, 
the two archbishops Theobald and Roger, the bishops 
of London, Exeter and Lincoln, and the abbots of S. 
Augustine's and Holme. Richard de Luci again 
dwelt upon the Norman associations of the abbey, 
and urged the strong feeling of the Norman nobles 
in favour of the maintenance of its privileges. The 
chancellor again recited the charters at the abbot's 
request, and then called upon the bishop of Chi- 
chester to state his case. Hilary enlarged upon the 
spiritual jurisdiction of the Church, her independence 
of the secular authority and the necessity of papal 
sanction before a layman, even the king, could confer 
any ecclesiastical dignity or exemption, in language 
that drew a sturdy protest from the king, to which 
the chancellor added a sharp remonstrance of his 
own 1 . The bishop disclaimed the idea of disloyalty, 
but did not succeed in satisfying the offended king. 
He went on to allege various acts of submission to 
his authority on the part of the abbot, and referred 
in a tone of complaint to the futility of the conference 
which met to revise the abbey charter at the royal 

1 Battle Abbey Chronicle (Materials, iv. 248): [pecca]tis enim 
in dominum nostrum regem, cui fidei sacramentum vos fecisse 
nulli dubium est. 


command in the presence of Thomas the chancellor 
and Theobald the archbishop. The king insisted 
that the question must be left to his own deter- 
mination. Eventually Richard de Luci requested 
that the abbot might retire and consult his friends 1 . 
The king assented, and Richard invited Roger arch- 
bishop of York, Thomas the chancellor, John treasurer 
of York, Robert earl of Leicester, Patrick earl of 
Salisbury, Henry of Essex, Reginald de Warenne, 
Warren Fitzgerald, and a number of other Norman 
nobles and knights, along with his brother, and 
asked their opinion in another part of the chapter- 
house. The king went to mass, and then resumed 
his seat in court. Richard de Luci and the abbot's 
supporters now returned, and the chancellor delivered 
their opinion in a long and able speech 2 , dealing 
with each alleged act of submission to the bishop, _ 
and finally convicting the bishop of having obtained 
letters from Rome against the abbot. In answer to 
the king's indignant enquiry the bishop denied the 
accusation on oath, and persisted in his denial, 
though the chancellor pointed to the papal letters 
now in the abbot's possession. Archbishop Theobald, 
knowing the facts, crossed himself in holy horror at 
the bishop's perjury, and at last requested that the 
king would entrust the whole case to his care, to be 
settled in accordance with the canon law of the 

1 Battle Abbey Chron. iv. 249 : abbati de Bello fratri suo super 
his respondendi consilium cum amicis suis secretius habere liceret. 

2 iv. 250: Bicardus de Luci cum abbate et omnibus sibi 
junctis consilio communicate rediit, impositoque responsionis 
sermone Thomae cancellario regis, omnibus audientibus facunda 
oratione hoc modo idem responsum reddidit heros. 


church. But the king, whose dissatisfaction with 
the bishop had been visibly increasing during the 
progress of the trial, and had culminated at the 
disclosure of the appeal to Rome, insisted on pro- 
nouncing on the case himself 1 . He rose and withdrew 
to the monks' cemetery, attended by all the council. 
The bishop and the abbot alone were left behind. 
The matter was discussed, and then the bishop was 
summoned to the royal presence. Further discussion 
followed, and Henry of Essex was sent to fetch the 
abbot and his three monks in attendance. On their 
arrival the bishop, at a sign from the king, publicly 
announced that he withdrew all claims upon the 
abbot, adding, by express command of the king, 
that he did so voluntarily and not under any com- 
pulsion*. At the request of Archbishop Theobald, 
the king gave the kiss of peace to the bishop, and 
by the king's command the bishop exchanged the 
same token of reconciliation with the abbot and his 
brother the justiciar. 

1 iv. 255 : the archbishop speaks, "praecipiat excellentia vestra 
nos super his quid faciendum sit consilio retractare atque ordine 
judiciario consuetudinis ecclesiasticae determinare." "Non ita " 
inquit rex, "haec per vos determinari praecipiam; verum ego 
vobis comitantibus consilio super his habito fine recto con- 

2 iv. 256: ad haec rex: " non coactus sed voluntarie hoc te 
fuisse et protulisse constans est." Episcopus: "verum est me 
hoc voluntarie justa ratione cogente fecisse necnon et protulisse." 
Thomas the archbishop, in a letter to Pope Alexander in 1168, 
called it an act of coercion : eidem (abbati) coram omnibus 
communicare (Cicestrensis episcopus) compulsus est sine absolu- 
tione, et eum recipere in osculo pacis. Probably Thomas was 
right: it was practical compulsion. 


The court before which this case was tried was 
evidently the Curia Regis in the later and narrower 
sense, the inner circle of the great national council, 
a royal selection from the barons and knights who 
had met to honour the king at his coronation festival 
at S. Edmund's. It included the chancellor and 
other household officials, and a few nobles and 
ecclesiastics invited by the king. The chancellor's 
share in the trial is important. As secretary to the 
king he reads and takes charge of the documentary 
evidence, and as clerk of the court calls upon the 
litigants in turn to state their case. At a later 
stage of their proceedings he appears in a new light 
as the chosen advocate of the abbot's rights 1 , the 

1 Dean Hook (Archbps. ii. 372) seeins to have mistaken 
Thomas' speech for the judicial verdict of the Curia. "An 
adjournment," he says, "took place for a short time. On the 
return of tlie court Becket in a long and able speech gave judgment 
against the bishop. He stated that the abbot sought to retain 
the privileges conceded to his abbey by William the Conqueror, 
and among them an exemption from all episcopal jurisdiction. 
In those privileges he loos now confirmed by the command of the 
king, 'not for the purpose,' said Becket in conclusion, 'of setting 
you at nought but with the intention of defending by sound 
reason as royal rights, things which you have been pleased in our 
hearing to call frivolous.'" The chancellor is really referring here 
to the abbot's attitude at the conference which met at Lambeth in 
1155 to revise the abbey charter in accordance with the royal 
mandate (praecepto domini regis, Mat. iv. 249), which Dean 
Hook has apparently transferred to the trial of 1157. For the 
real bearing of this passage (Materials, iv. 249) see ch. vn. of this 
Essay, and the note A on the word peremptorius, here translated 

Canon Kobertson makes a similar mistake. In his biography 
of Becket (p. 61) he describes the chancellor as "delivering the 


mouthpiece of the great body of Norman feeling in 
favour of the abbey. Finally he is merged as an 
ordinar}' member in the Curia which the king deigns 
to consult before pronouncing his decision. The 
details of that consultation are not recorded in the 
Abbey Chronicle. The omission may be simply 
explained by the fact that the abbot and his atten- 
dant monks were only summoned at its close to 
hear the bishop resign his claims. Otherwise we 
might be tempted to regard the silence of the 
chronicler as an indication that the deliberation of 
the Curia amounted to little more than a statement 
of the king's intention, accepted without much, if 
any, room for variety of opinion on the part of his 
councillors 1 . 

(2) The judicial work of the chancellor, in the strict (2) The 
sense of the word, stands out distinctly in the records c a ^^^g r 
of the itinerant judicature preserved in the Pipe itinerant 
Rolls of the Exchequer. Already under Henry I. 
the officers of the Exchequer had travelled from 

judgment of a great assembly before which the question was 
tried." Father Morris is not quite clear: "Thomas the chancellor 
was called upon to deliver judgment as, from its effect, we 
suppose we must style what certainly reads more like the speech 
of an advocate " (S. Thomas, p. 546). As a matter of fact it was not 
the court that adjourned ; it was Richard de Luci and his brother's 
partisans. When the court did adjourn later to consider its 
verdict, it was the king who headed its deliberations; and the 
chancellor is not mentioned at all in connexion with the conclu- 
sion of the case. Thomas' speech is simply a masterly statement 
of the abbot's case ; it is the pleading of a party-counsel, not the 
verdict of the court. 

1 Cp. Thomas' letter to the Pope in 1163: sic placuit regi et 
curiae, quae ei in nullo contradicere audebat. 


county to county to assess the revenue, and as officers 
of the Curia Regis had held pleas in the local courts, 
as the Pipe Roll of 31 Henry I. amply proves. This 
system of financial and judicial inspection was re- 
sumed, perhaps on a less extensive scale, at the very 
outset of Henry II.'s reign 1 . It is true that it was 
not until 1166 that the duties of "the Curia Regis 
in progress " were marked out by legislative enact- 
ment in the Assize of Clarendon. It was not until 
1176 that the country was systematically divided 
into six circuits with a detachment of three judges 
to each circuit, on the lines of the fiscal circuit of 
1173. And it was not until 1176 that the name 
"justitiarii itinerantes" was applied in the Pipe 
Rolls to these travelling justices 2 . The "errantes 
justitiae " erring as well as errant who are singled 
out for condemnation in John of Salisbury's Poly- 
craticus 3 (dated 1159) are still the sheriffs, the 
original representatives of royal justice. But the 
Pipe Roll of the 2nd year of Henry II. (1155-1156) 
proves that one or two officers of the Curia Regis 
were already busy in the provinces, however vague 

1 Stubbs, Select Charters, p. 141 : " Everything of the kind 
ceased under Stephen : and in the earlier years of Henry II. the 
visitation was apparently made only by either the great justiciar 
or some other great officer of the royal household, as the constable 
or the chancellor." 

2 Cp. their designation in the Dialogus de Scaccario (i. iv.) : 
fiunt interdum per comitatus communes assisae (i.e. the general 
assessment of revenue in each country) a justitiis itinerantibus 
quos nos deambulatorios \elperlustrantesjudices nominamus. 

3 Joh. S. Polycraticus, v. 15. Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 604, 


their title, however undefined their duties. In that 
year for the first time in English history the chan- 
cellor is mentioned as an itinerant justice, sitting 
in judgment with other members of the Curia Regis 
in different counties. In Lincolnshire Thomas was 
acting in conjunction with the chief justiciar, Robert 
Beamont earl of Leicester 1 . In Essex the sheriff 
(Richard de Luci) accounts for 14. 2s. arising from 
an assize held by the chancellor and Henry earl 
of Essex, the constable 2 . In Kent three items of 
revenue are mentioned in the sheriffs account as 
arising from pleas held by the chancellor and the 
earl of Essex 3 . In the same shire Hugh Pincerna 
accounts for 40s. pro placitis sigilli apparently 
pleas held by the chancellor alone. In the third 
year it was the earl of Essex who was most busily 
engaged : his name occurs in three counties, Sussex, 
Wiltshire and Somerset. The chancellor is not 
actually mentioned as holding pleas in that year, 
but his name is found in the Shropshire accounts 
associated with the earl of Leicester, who was 

1 Pipe Roll, 2 Henry II. p. 26 : de placitis cancellarii et comitis 
Legecestriae. It is interesting by the way to note that the very 
next item of royal revenue accounted for by the sheriff arises 
from the ecclesiastical courts of the diocese : de placitis episcopi 

2 Pipe Roll, 2 Henry II. p. 17 : de assisa cancellarii et Henrici 
deEssexia. Stubbs (Const. Hist. i. 573, note) tabulates the meanings 
of the word assisa as follows: (1) a legal enactment, e.g. Assize of 
Clarendon, (2) a special form of trial prescribed by legal enact- 
ment, e.g. Assize d'Ancester, (3) the court holding the trial, e.g. 
the modern Assize. The meaning in this entry in the Pipe Roll 
is apparently the original meaning, prior to all these, = session. 

3 Pipe Roll, 2 Henry II. pp. 65, 66. 

R. 8 


holding pleas in that shire 1 . The last item of 
expenditure in the sheriff's account is sanctioned 
per cancellarium et comitem Legecestriae. Perhaps 
the two had been acting in concert as officers of 
the Exchequer, even if the earl had been acting 
singly as an officer of the Curia Regis. The Pipe 
Roll of the fourth year reveals the chancellor acting 
alone in Middlesex and Huntingdonshire. The men 
of Laleham in the former county are responsible for 
two marks de placitis cancellarii 2 , while the sheriff 
of Huntingdon accounts for ten marks due from 
the fines for murdrum and from the chancellor's 
pleas 3 . 

From the fifth year of the reign (1158-1159) to 
the eighth (1161-1162) there is no further record in 
the Pipe Rolls of judicial work done by the chan- 

1 Pipe Koll, 2 Henry II. p. 89 : de placitis comitis Legecestriae. 
Foss (Judges, i. 196) speaks of the chancellor as holding pleas with 
the earl of Leicester in Shropshire in this year ; but this is scarcely 
a justifiable statement. Perhaps after all the entry ' per cancel- 
larium et comitem Legecestriae' merely means that the two 
tested and passed this item in the sheriff's account when it came 
up at the Exchequer. 

2 Pipe Koll, 4 Henry II. p. 114: homines de Laleham reddide- 
runt compotum de n m. argenti de placitis cancellarii. Homines 
in the Pipe Eolls has a technical meaning. It is a term applied 
to those "feudatory tenants who claimed the privilege of having 
their causes and persons tried only in the courts of their lords " 
(Glossary, Introduction to Pipe Bolls, p. 84). This explains the 
second half of the above entry, the remission of the sum to the 
abbot of Westminster: in perdonis per breve regis abbati de 
Westmonasterio n m. argenti et quietus est. Laleham was 
evidently a manor in the possession of the abbot. 

3 Pipe Roll, 4 Henry II. p. 164: de placitis cancellarii et 


cellor in the provinces. The reason is obvious. In 
the autumn of 1158 came the famous embassy to 
Paris, and from that date until his election to the 
primacy in 1162 Thomas was abroad most of his 
time, engaged in attendance on the king or winning 
fresh laurels in the field of diplomacy or war. 

(3) So far we have been on the safe ground of (3) Equi- 
well-authenticated facts. The Chronicle of Battle dicti^of 
Abbey supplies definite information as to the chan- Chancery. 
cellor's work as a member of the Curia Regis in 
session under the king. The Pipe Rolls speak for 
his activity in provincial judicature. There still 
remain for consideration the vaguer references to 
the chancellor's judicial labours in the pages of 
contemporary writers, which seem on the first glance 
to point to the chancery under Thomas as a separate 
court of judicature with an equitable jurisdiction. 

(a) Fitzstephen in the prologue to his life of 
Thomas tells us that he was remembrancer in his 
chancery ; that he acted as subdeacon in his chapel 
when Thomas was celebrating mass ; and that when 
Thomas sat to hear causes, he read out the letters 
and documents produced as evidence, and sometimes 
at the suggestion of Thomas took charge of a case as 
advocate 1 . At first sight this notice seems to refer 
to the chancellor's court. But weighty reasons have 
been urged in favour of its interpretation as referring 
to the time when Thomas was archbishop. In the 

1 Fitzst. iii. 1 : fui in cancellaria ejus dictator ; in capella, eo 
celebrante, subdiaconus ; sedente eo ad cognitionem causarum, 
epistolarum et instrumentorum quae offerebantur lector, et aliqua- 
rum, eo quandoque jubente, causarum patronus. 



first place, the later date is required by the allusion 
to the celebration of mass. Thorn as* was not or- 
dained priest until the day before his consecration 
as archbishop. Secondly, Fitzstephen's reference to 
himself as a patronus shows that it is an eccles- 
iastical court which he is describing. The clergy 
were not allowed to plead in the secular courts 1 . 
Evidently the cancellaria in question is not the 
chancellor's court but the office where the archbishop 
transacted the judicial and administrative work of 
his see 12 . 

(&) Still more vague are the eulogistic allusions 
to the chancellor as a source of justice which occur 
in the Latin poems dedicated to him by John of 
Salisbury. In one place, speaking of Theobald's 
desire to have Thomas for his successor in the 
primacy, he pays the chancellor a marked tribute of 
praise. The passage is worth quotation. 

1 Eobertson, Becket, Appendix i. Dean Hook (Archbps. ii. 
375) infers the possibility of the later date from the description of 
Fitzstephen as subdeacon in Thomas' chapel. As chancellor, he 
remarks, Thomas had no chapel of his own, but "officiated in 
the king's chapel." He suggests however that "the king's 
chaplain, though only a deacon, may have had a subdeacon," 
and argues that "if causes were heard in a bishop's chancery, we 
may be sure they were not unheard in the king's." If the word 
celebrante merely means "officiating" in general, Hook's explana- 
tion of the reference to the capella may hold good. But if the 
word is used strictly, it settles the question : it can only refer to 
the celebration of the office of mass, i.e. to the time when Thomas 
was priest and archbishop. 

2 Bobertson, Becket, App. i. Eoger Wendover's statement 
that Thomas was often busy in causis perorandis et decidendis is 
explained by Eobertson as relating to his legal services at the 
court of archbishop Theobald. 


Ille Theobaldus, qui Christ! praesidet aulae 

quam fidei matrem Cantia nostra colit, 
hunc successurum sibi sperat et orat ut idem 

praesulis officium muniat atque locum, 
hie est carnificum qui jus cancellat iniquum, 

quos habuit reges Anglia capta diu, 
esse putans reges, quos est perpessa tyrannos ; 

plus veneratur eos qui nocuere magis 1 .- 

In the preface to his Polycraticus he rises to a 
still higher flight of eulogy. The chancellor is 
described as the king's right hand, the living 
embodiment of all that was good, the refuge of 
the oppressed, the light of the Church, the glory 
of the nation. 

Ergo quaeratur lux cleri, gloria gentis 

Anglorum, regis dextera, forma boni. 
quaerendus regni tibi cancellarius Angli, 

primus sollicita mente petendus erit. 
hie est qui regni leges cancellat iniquas 

et mandata pii principis aequa facit. 
si quid obest populo vel moribus est inimicum, 

quicquid id est, per eum desinit esse nocens 2 . 

These lines have produced quite a wealth of 
conjecture by way of explanation. Dean Milman 3 , 
taking the word carnificum and the expressions 
which follow it to refer to the oppressive rule of the 
Norman dynasty, hazards the query, " did Becket 
decide against the Norman laws by the Anglo- 
Saxon ? " though he confesses himself baffled by 
the enigma. There may be some truth in the 
suggestion. The development of the external 

1 Job. S. Enthelicus de Dogm. Philosoph. 1295-1302. 
- Job. S. Enthelicus in Polycrat. i. 2 (ed. Giles). 
3 Latin Christianity, iii. 453, note. 


machinery of justice during the Norman and early 
Angevin periods was one long process of fusion 
between Norman and English institutions; and 
there seems to have been a corresponding bi- 
legalism, if the expression may be used, in the 
principles of current law, which made the adminis- 
tration of justice a complicated task 1 . Canon 
Robertson, dealing with the same passage from 
another point of view, suggests that Thomas is 
here regarded not as a judicial power but as 
" reversing by legislation and administration what 
had been done under Stephen, who, notwithstanding 
the defectiveness of his title and the disorders of 
his reign, had been generally popular 8 ." This con- 
jecture certainly provides a plausible meaning for 
the last couplet of the former extract, the reference 
to the misplaced loyalty of the English people. 
But it attributes too much to the chancellor. The 

1 Mrs J. E. Green in her Life of Henry tJie Second (pp. 50, 51) 
gives a vivid picture of the state of English law at this time. 
"A new confusion and uncertainty had been brought into the 
law in the last hundred years by the effort to fuse together 
Norman law and English custom. Norman landlord or Norman 
sheriff naturally knew little of English law or custom, and his 
tendency was always to enforce the feudal rules which he practised 
on his Norman estates. In course of time it came about that all 
questions of land-tenure and of the relations of classes were 
regulated by a kind of double system. The Englishman as well 
as the Norman became the 'man' of his lord as in Norman law, 
and was bound by the duties thus involved. On the other hand 
the Norman as well as the Englishman held his land subject to 
the customary burdens and rights recognized by English law." 
The whole chapter on " The government of England " is well 
worth studying (ch. iii. pp. 39-68). 

2 Eobertson, Becket, Appendix m. 


early administration of the reign of Henry II. is 
well attested by the accounts which the chroniclers 
and the Pipe Rolls give of the suppression of a 
turbulent baronage and the restoration of the 
judicial and financial system of Henry I. But there 
is no record of substantive legislation during the 
chancellorship of Thomas. 

In the absence of sober evidence as to the 
precise way in which the chancellor went to work in 
his judicial capacity, we cannot build upon the 
rhetorical exaggerations of these laudatory poems in 
which John of Salisbury sank the historian in the 
panegyrist. Their language is too vague to be 
pressed in any technical sense 1 . Lord Lyttelton in 
his life of Henry II. had already suspected the 
existence of an element of literary humour in these 
lines, and taken them as a punning compliment to 
the " cancellarius " and little or nothing more. As 
he pointed out, with special reference to the lines 

"leges cancellat iniquas 
et mandata pii principis aequa facit," 

the language will not bear the strain of the ex- 
planation which supposes that it was already at this 

1 There is an interesting but indecisive passage in one 
biographer which deals in general terms with the chancellor's 
judicial services to his country. Auct. Anon. i. iv. 12 : vices 
regis et negotia exsequens nunc...exercitum praeibat, nunc vacans 
ab expeditionibus jura populis dictabat. Cp. iv. 13. Thomas was 
always accessible to the oppressed, faciebatque studiose judicium 
inopis et vindictam pauperum. There is however no reason why 
this should not refer merely to his services as an itinerant 
justice. The plural populis seems rather to lend itself to this 


time an essential function of the chancellor's office 
to mitigate the rigour of common law by principles 
of equity. The play on the word " cancellarius " is 
only "a curious anticipation of the chancellor's 
equitable jurisdiction as developed at a later 
period 1 ." In the earlier part of Henry II.'s reign 
it was the Curia Regis that was the "court of 
remedial and equitable jurisdiction V It was not till 
after the later subdivision of the Curia Regis into 
different courts of judicature that the judicial 
supremacy of the king, which still remained un- 
impaired, came to exert itself through the chancellor 
as a source of equity 3 . Throughout the reign of 
Henry II. the chancery was simply the office from 
which the royal writs were issued, and its business 
was transacted either at the Curia Regis or at the 
Exchequer, mainly at the latter 4 . It was not sepa- 

1 Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 352, note. 

2 William of Newburgh, bk. ii. ch. 1 : quoties autein, judicibus 
mollius indigniusve agentibus, provincialium querimoniis pulsa- 
batur (rex), provisionis regiae remedium adhibebat, illorum compe- 
tenter corrigens vel negligentiam vel excessum. These judices 
are apparently the sheriffs appointed early in the reign (ordinati 
in cunctis regni finibus juris et legum ministri). Cp. Dial. 
Scacc. i. iv. : regis curia in qua ipse in propria persona jura 

3 Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 602, note: "The chancellor's close 
attendance on the king made him the obvious recipient of petitions 
for royal grace. They were entrusted to him to keep and after- 
wards to hear; and this was the origin of the equitable juris- 
diction of the Court of Chancery, under which he was empowered 
to remedy the summum jus of common law or provide remedies in 
cases which the common law failed to meet." 

4 Koyal writs drawn up by the chancellor and his staff were 
issued either at the Exchequer or at the Curia Kegis. In the 


rated from the Exchequer and erected into a distinct 
court until the end of Richard I.'s reign or early in 
the reign of John, when distinct Rolls of Chancery 
began to be made 1 . Thomas cannot therefore be 
regarded as the founder of the Court of Chancery as 
a judicial institution. All that can be said with 
certainty is that his share in the work of itinerant 
judicature, first in conjunction with another justice, 
and then alone, is the first recorded instance in 
which judicial functions of any kind were exercised 
by the chancellor. 

The extent to which Thomas may be credited, if Legal 
he is to be credited at all, with a share in the re f rm - 
positive legal reforms of the reign is as hard to 
determine as the extent of the judicial powers, if 
any, which he bequeathed to the chancellorship. 
On the one hand we have the simple fact that with 
the exception perhaps of the Great Assize, the date 
of which is unknown, the legislative reforms which 
make the reign of Henry II. an epoch in constitu- 
tional history are all subsequent to the chancellorship 
of Thomas 2 . They date from Henry's return to 

former case they were distinguished by the phrase 'his testibus ad 
scaccarium.' Dial. Scacc. i. 6. 

1 Madox, Exchequer, p. 44. 

2 Stubbs, Select Charters, p. 124. " Whatever may have been 
the positive influence of Thomas Becket as the king's confidant 
and chancellor and there is nothing to show that it was ever 
strong enough to control or guide the purposes of his master 
the removal of it, which followed shortly after his consecration as 
archbishop, coincides in time with the origin of Henry's legal 
reforms." Freeman viewed the question in a very different light. 
"The administrative and legislative work of Henry's reign," he 
says, " began while Thomas was still his chief counsellor. Henry 


England in 1163, after bis absence of more than 
four years, to take the reins of government into his 
own hands. At the same time it seems probable 
that those legislative reforms were not entire in- 
novations but rather the completion of work begun 
and steadily continued earlier in the reign. During 
those first few years when the judicial and financial 
system was being reorganised by the king and his 
ministers, practical reforms were, no doubt, initiated 
which bore fruit in the later legislation. The 
decision of cases of disputed ownership by the 
" recognition " of twelve competent residents in the 
neighbourhood, the "presentment" of criminals by 
the knights and freeholders of each district both 
great improvements in the administration of justice 
are mentioned in the Constitutions of Clarendon 
in 1164 in terms which seem to imply that they had 
been at work for some time as a regular part of the 
judicial procedure. But the fact remains that the 
years of Thomas' chancellorship are a blank as far as 
legislation is concerned ; and we cannot with cer- 
tainty attribute to the early influence of Thomas 
any of the tentative reforms which were afterwards 
fixed by the king's legislation. 

showed in after-times that he could go on with the work by 
himself ; but it was while Thomas was at his side that it began " 
(Contemp. Review, vol. 32, p. 136). It should never be forgotten 
however that Henry had other helpers in the work, from Richard 
de Luci and Robert earl of Leicester the justiciars at the outset 
to the great lawyer Ranulf de Glanville at the close of his 



THE chancellor had an important part to play in The 
the finance as well as in the judicature of the realm. 
Like the other great dignitaries of the royal house- chequer. 
hold, the chancellor acted ex officio as a baron of the 
Exchequer. His duties in this capacity are clearly 
defined in the Dialogue de Scaccario 1 . He ranked 
next to the justiciar, the president of the Exchequer, 
on whose left he sat, facing the chequered table 
(scaccarium) on which the game of finance was 
played between sheriff and treasurer. His consent 
was requisite in all matters of importance 2 . He 
was charged with the custody of the royal seal, 
which was usually kept in the treasury at the 
Exchequer, and of the rotulus de cancellaria, the 
duplicate of the treasurer's roll, though this latter 
duty was discharged by proxy. In the opinion of The Rolls. 
contemporary legal authorities he was responsible 
like the treasurer for the accuracy of the rolls. 

1 Dial. Scacc. i. 5 (Stubbs, Select Charters, pp. 178, 179). 

2 Dial. Scacc. p. 179 : sicut in curia sic ad scaccarium magnus 
est, adeo ut sine ipsius consensu vel consilio nil magnum fiat vel 
fieri debeat. 


" The Exchequer itself was a court of supreme juris- 
diction in all matters relating to the revenue of the 
Crown, in which (technically speaking) the king was 
plaintiff and his debtors defendants 1 ." The greatest 
importance was therefore attached to accuracy in 
points of fact, for the evidence of the rolls in which 
the transactions of the Exchequer were recorded was 
final in all future questions. The requisite accuracy 
was secured by the functions assigned to the 
chancellor and his subordinates. The chancellor 
was not always present in person, but his two chief 
clerks were always on duty at the Exchequer. By 
the side of the treasurer's clerk who wrote out the 
great Roll of the Pipe, as the rotulus de thesauro 
was called, at the dictation of the treasurer, sat the 
scriptor cancellariae, compiling a careful transcript 
of the Great Roll which was called rotulus de 
cancellaria. And beside the scriptor cancellariae sat 
the chancellor's watchful representative, the clericus 
cancellarii, whose duty it was to see that the 
chancellor's duplicate corresponded with the trea- 
surer's roll down to the last iota in matter and 
arrangement. The chancellor's powers went further. 
He was at liberty to challenge the accuracy of the 
treasurer's record as it was being compiled, and 

1 Introduction to Pipe Rolls, p. 44. Cp. Dial. Scacc. i. 4 
(Stubbs, Select Charters, p. 177): non enim in ratiociniis sed in 

multiplicibus judiciis excellens scaccarii scientia consistit At 

cum coeperit multiplex inquisitio fieri de his rebus quae varie 
fisco proveniunt et diversis modis requiruntur et a vicecomitibus 
non eodem modo perquiruntur, discernere si secus egerint qui- 
busdam grave est, et ob hoc circa haec scientia scaccarii major 
esse dicitur. 


suggest the alterations which seemed to him to be 
required ; and if the treasurer persisted in holding 
to his own record, the chancellor was allowed to 
argue the point and insist on its being settled 
by a judicial verdict of the barons of the Exchequer 
in session 1 . 

The chancellor's staff had other duties also in Writs. 
connexion with the Exchequer 2 . All royal writs 
relating to payments out of the treasury, allowances 
made to the sheriffs in consideration of previous 
outlay, and remissions of debts sanctioned by the 
barons in session, were made out in duplicate by 
the scriptor cancettariae, who also drew up at the 
close of the session the forms of summons which 
were to be sent round to the sheriffs and other 
debtors of the king in view of the next session of 
the Exchequer. The responsibilities of the clericus 
cancellarii were still greater. He had charge of all 
the duplicate writs made out by the scriptor cancel- 
lariae 3 ', he corrected and sealed the forms of 
summons ; as each sheriff came forward with his 
accounts, he glanced from time to time at the roll 
of the previous year, until the sheriff had accounted 
for each item against his name ; and, taking from 
the sheriff the writ by which he had been summoned, 
read out the debts there recorded, demanded satis- 

1 Introduction to Pipe Bolls, pp. 44, 45. " A further safe- 
guard was employed by the Crown in the designation of its 
chancellor to represent the equitable jurisdiction of the sovereign 
at the Exchequer, as a foil to official callousness or rapacity." 

2 Dial. Scacc. i. 5, 6 (Stubbs, Select Charters, pp. 187-189). 

3 The original writs made out by the scriptor cancellariae were 
handed over to the care of the marshal (marescallus). 


faction for each one singly, and ran his pen through 
each item as it was paid or accounted for, in order 
to ascertain exactly the sums that still remained 
due to the king. In brief, the great bulk of the 
secretarial work of the Exchequer was done by the 
chancellor's clerks. 

Transac- Two full sessions of the Exchequer were held in 
the Ex- the year, at Easter and at Michaelmas respectively. 
chequer, ^he sheriffs produced their accounts, which were 
inspected by the barons and finally balanced at the 
Michaelmas sessions, when the roll for the year was 
compiled. In these accounts each sheriff stated the 
amount of revenue due to the king from the ferm of 
the shire, the pleas of the local courts, the Danegeld, 
and the different feudal charges, and enumerated as 
a set-off the sums paid away by himself in liquidation 
of the king's debts in his shire, the expenses of 
public business, the cost of provisions for the court, 
and the travelling expenses of the king and his 
guests within the limits of the sheriff's district 1 . 
Much of this expenditure was commanded in the 
first instance or sanctioned at the Exchequer by 
royal officers, and where this was the case the Pipe 
Rolls record the fact. A few examples will suffice 
to illustrate the chancellor's share of the work. In 
the Pipe Roll of 3 Henry II. (1156-1157) the sheriff 
of Lincolnshire is allowed 72. 19s. lOd for the 
travelling expenses of the king of Scotland, per 
cancellarium et comitem Legecestriae 2 . In the roll 

1 Stubbs, Constit. Hist. i. 380. 

2 Pipe Roll, 3 Henry II. p. 83 (ed. Hunter) : in corredio regis 


4 Henry II. (1157-1158) the sheriffs of London are 
allowed 68. '3s. 4rf. under the general head of 
payments 1 , 40s. for the king's huntsmen and hounds, 
and 20*. for a palfrey for a certain clerk named 
Thomas, all three allowances made per cancellarium. 
In the roll 5 Henry II. (1158-1159) the sheriff of 
Dorset is allowed 7. 6s. 8d. for money paid away 
to a certain person per cancellarium, per breve regis, 
i.e. by order of the chancellor, grounded on the 
king's writ, in obedience to which the sheriff had 
paid the money. In the accounts of the sheriff of 
Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, in the Pipe 
Roll of 4 Henry II. (1157-1158), two persons in 
succession who were each responsible for 100 marks, 
apparently the cost of the judicial division of a 
certain landed estate, and had each paid 50 marks 
into the treasury, are set down as owing 50 marks 
(the remainder of their liabilities) secundum breve 
cancellarii, i.e. in accordance with a writ of the 
chancellor 2 . 

1 Pipe Eoll, 4 Henry II. p. 112 (ed. Hunter): in soltis. This 
may perhaps be the technical use of solta (=soluta, sums paid), 
i.e. restitution of the value of stolen property to the owner. 
If the sheriff prosecuted, all the goods of the thief were con- 
fiscated to the Crown; but if the injured person prosecuted, the 
value of the stolen goods (solta) was restored to him out of the 
thief s chattels, and he also received compensation (persolta or 
prosolta) for his time and trouble. Dial. Scacc. n. 10. 

2 Pipe Eoll, 4 Henry II. p. 140. The first entry is : Willelmus 
de Buissei reddidit compotum (i.e. gave an account) de c m. 
argenti pro terra Walteri de Espec partienda contra Bobertum de 
Eos. In thesauro L m. argenti. Et debet L m. argenti secun- 
dum breve cancellarii. The second entry is identical, except the 
name of the debtor. 


Perdona. There is one interesting class of notices in the 
Pipe Rolls which calls for a somewhat fuller treat- 
ment. It is the constantly recurring group of items 
under the head of perdona. The perdonum of the 
Pipe Rolls, though it is the lineal ancestor of our 
word pardon, has not exactly the same meaning as 
its philological descendant. It is strictly the re- 
mission of a debt. The debt in question might be a 
judicial fine imposed by the king's justices ; or it 
might be, what it seems more frequently to have 
been, a financial charge upon the property or person 
of the king's tenants, baron, prelate, freeholder, or 
city-gild. The chancellor's name occurs frequently 
every year in the different shires as the recipient of 
such perdona remissions of charges which in many 
cases he shared with the other barons of the Ex- 
chequer, who were ex officio exempt from the com- 
munis assisa (= the general taxation) of their 
counties, from scutage, from the murdrum fine, 
the Danegeld, and various other contributions to the 
royal revenue 1 . These perdona were granted usually 
by king's writ, directed to the barons of the Ex- 
chequer and tested at the Exchequer by two of the 
greater officials 2 ; and they appear in the sheriff's 

1 Dial. Scacc. i. 8 (Stubbs, Select Charters, p. 198). 

2 Dial. Scacc. i. 6 (Stubbs, ib. p. 188). Cp. Intr. to Pipe 
Eolls, pp. 49, 50. A specimen writ is given in the Dialogus: "Itex 
baronibus de scaccario salutem. Perdono illi vel clamo quietum 
hvmc vel ilium de hoc vel de illo. Testibus hiis ad scaccarium." 
This is strictly an official writ drawn up in the king's name 
by order of the barons, praecognita regis voluntate, not an 
original writ issued by the king himself: but the official writs 
were reproductions of an original writ. 


accounts in the Pipe Rolls as a deduction from his 
liabilities under the heading in perdonis per breve 
regis, followed by a list of names in the dative case, 
the recipients of the royal grant of exemption. 
Only two exceptions to this rule occur in the first 
four years of the reign. In the Pipe Roll of 2 Henry 
II. (pp. 9, 23) are two entries in perdonis per breve 
reginae, the queen here replacing the king in the 
exercise of this royal prerogative. But in the fifth 
year (1158-1159) the chancellor's name begins to 
appear in connexion with these perdona in a way 
which at first sight suggests that as his influence 
increased he was permitted to exercise his own 
authority in granting the remission of debts due 
to the king 1 . In the Pipe Roll of 5 Henry II. 
(p. 12) there is an entry in perdonis per cancellarium, 
and in the Roll 7 Henry II. (1160-1161) there are 
six entries in perdonis praecepto cancellarii to persons 
in different counties, in Norfolk and Suffolk (p. 4), 
Herefordshire (p. 20), Northumberland (p. 24), 
Staffordshire (p. 41) and Hampshire (pp. 57, 59). 
These notices certainly look as though the chancellor 
had been solely responsible for the perdona there 
recorded. But this impression is not borne out by 
comparison with other perdona mentioned in those 
two years. In the Pipe Roll of 5 Henry II. (p. 10) 
there is an entry in perdonis per breve regis per 
cancellarium; and in the Roll 7 Henry II. (p. 50) 

1 Mrs J. R. Green, Henry the Second, p. 80 : " There are 
even entries in the Pipe Roll of pardons issued by him, the 
first instance of such a right ever used by any one save king 
or queen." 

R. 9 


an entry occurs in perdono per breve regis praecepto 
cancellarii. It is evident that the phrases per can- 
cellarium and praecepto cancellarii appended in these 
two last instances to perdona based on a writ of 
the king cannot be pressed to imply the independent 
action of the chancellor in the cases cited above 
where no writ is mentioned. They seem rather to 
imply a previous warrant of some kind from the 
king 1 . The question is somewhat obscure, but, as 
far as can be inferred from extant records, the 
method of procedure seems to have been as follows. 
The writs were issued by the chancellor in the king's 
name. In the cases therefore where no writ is 
mentioned, it is probable that no writ was issued 
at all, but that a verbal order for the perdonum 
in question was given by the king to the chancellor 
and transmitted directly by him (per cancellarium) 
or indirectly through him (praecepto cancellarii) to 
the barons of the Exchequer as a warrant to them 
not to claim the debt from the favoured individual. 
In all these cases therefore the chancellor was only 
the channel of royal favour, the agent by whom 

1 Miss Norgate, the writer of England under the Angevin 
Kings, suggested that possibly the six entries praecepto cancel- 
larii in Pipe Roll 7 Henry II., compared with the entry per breve 
regis praecepto cancellarii in Pipe Roll 7 Henry II. p. -50, should 
be explained by the supposition of a previous writ from the king. 
In reply to my suggestion that the variation between the entries 
per cancellarium and per breve regis per cancellarium, which had 
escaped her notice, should perhaps be explained by a similar 
supposition, Miss Norgate kindly furnished me with the following 
information as to the probable procedure in granting perdona, for 
which she was indebted to Mr Salisbury of the Record Office. 


the royal mandate, written or verbal, was conveyed 
to the officers of the Exchequer. 

It is not until the eighth year of the reign, when 
the chancellor had become the archbishop, that we 
find him granting perdona by a writ of his own, 
independently of the king. In the Pipe Roll of 8 
Henry II. (Michaelmas 1161-1162) occurs the follow- 
ing entry (p. 64) : in perdono per breve archiepiscopi 
Waltero filio Warini 1 ra. It is scarcely probable 
that in a record so accurate as the Pipe Roll a writ 
issued by the chancellor would be described as a writ 
of the archbishop because he had been made arch- 
bishop since the issue of the writ. We can hardly 
suppose therefore that this writ was presented at 
the Easter session of the Exchequer, when Thomas 
was still only the king's chancellor. Its presenta- 
tion at the Exchequer must be assigned to the 
Michaelmas session of 1162, when the roll for the 
year was compiled. It may have been issued after 
Easter, during the brief interval between the conse- 
cration of Thomas in June and his resignation of 
the chancellor's seal ; but unless it falls within that 
short space of time, we are left to the conclusion 
that it was not until after he had ceased to be 
chancellor that he was allowed to exercise the royal 
prerogative of pardon on his own authority 1 . 

1 Hewlett (Chronicle of Stephen ami Henry II. vol. iii. preface, 
p. Ivii) remarks that this entry in the Boll of 8 Henry II. "speaks 
eloquently of the elevation which precedes a fall." Miss Norgate 
adds: "In nearly all the Rolls there are plenty of solta and dona 
per breve or praecepto of the queen and of the justiciars whenever 
the king is out of the country: but I see only two perdona per 
breve (other than that of the archbishop above) of any one 



The chan- The chancellor's financial powers were not con- 
fined to his seat at the Exchequer. The regular 
contributions twice a year from the sheriffs of the 
counties did not constitute the whole of the royal 
revenues. There were other occasional and irregular 
sources of income which did not fall within the 
cognisance of the Exchequer, but were entrusted to 
the control of the chancellor. While he held that 
office, Thomas was responsible for the receipt and 
evidently had a voice and a hand in the expenditure 
of the revenues that flowed into the royal treasury 
from vacant sees, abbeys, and baronies. But here 
we are treading on uncertain ground* It is difficult 
to distinguish between his expenditure of his own 
personal resources, and his share in the expenditure 
of the resources of the king which passed through 
his hands ; and the demand which the king after- 
wards made for the accounts of his chancellorship 
has awakened in the mind of one great modern 
historian at least a suspicion, which seems to have 

except the king, and those are of the queen in 2 Henry II. 
(pp. 9, 23)." 

Mr Salisbury of the Eecord Office suggests that even this 
pardon per breve archiepiscopi may not mean all that it seems at 
first sight to mean. If it came between the consecration and the 
resignation of the chancellorship, it may be only a scribe's 
blunder for per breve regis praecepto archiepiscopi, i.e. a royal 
writ issued through the archbishop as chancellor. But in view of 
all the precautions taken to ensure absolute accuracy in the 
compilation of the rolls with the treasurer's clerk writing the 
great Koll of the Pipe at the treasurer's dictation, and the scriptor 
cancellariae copying it word for word under the watchful eye 
of the clericus cancellarii it is not likely that such a mistake 
would have been made or passed over unnoticed. 


been already entertained, if not expressed, by the 
contemporaries of Thomas, that the two sets of 
money were not always kept strictly separate. 

The expenditure of the chancellor, if we may 
rely on the testimony of his biographers, must have penditure. 
been enormous. They are never weary of expatiat- 
ing on his magnificence and liberality. His house- 
hold was the centre of court society. His board 
was always free and open to all who came to the 
royal council, without distinction of rank or person. 
The only passport required was an honest exterior. 
Scarcely a day passed without a visit from earls and 
barons summoned by personal invitation of the 
chancellor. The stream of guests overflowed the 
limits of his table, and the mass of knights crowded 
out of the benches found the floor of the hall ready 
strewn every day with fresh straw in winter and 
fresh rushes in summer, by the kind forethought 
of their host the chancellor, while the board itself 
groaned beneath the weight of gold and silver plate 
and rare and dainty dishes 1 . This may of course 
be a picture of the special hospitality extended by 
Thomas to all comers on the occasion of the three 
great national councils of the year, when all tenants- 
in-chief of the king were entitled to present them- 
selves at court. But the ordinary expenses of the 
chancellor's household were heavy enough. It was 

1 Fitzstephen (iii. 20, 21) dwells with enthusiastic delight 
upon his master's grandeur during the period of his chancellor- 
ship, taking care at the same time to remark that amid all this 
luxury the poor were not forgotten: "summe tamen sobrius 
erat in his, ut de divite mensa dives colligeretur eleemosyna." 


the recognised school of chivalry for the young scions 
of noble houses. The magnates of England and 
sometimes of foreign kingdoms sent their sons to be 
trained in all the arts and accomplishments of a 
courtly life under the eye of the chancellor, and to 
win their spurs in his service. The king himself 
placed his little son and heir in Thomas' charge, 
to be educated in the society of the youthful knights 
who would be his barons if ever he succeeded 
his father on the throne 1 . Each of them had his 
little retinue in keeping with his rank, and all went 
to swell the lordly train of knights and attendants 
that was the glory of Thomas the ambassador and 
Thomas the soldier. His splendour was no less 
marked when travelling. He had a fleet of six or 
more ships of his own, and gave free passage to all 
who wished to cross the channel, and good bounty 
to his crews on landing. Even the king was not 
exempt from his persistent generosity. The royal 
fleet, we are told by the same informant 2 , consisted 
of a single ship ; and the chancellor presented the 
king with three goodly vessels fully equipped as his 
own gift. The magnificence of his embassy to the 
French court and his services in the French wars 
have already been described in detail ; but they 
must not be forgotten in a review of the chancellor's 
expenditure. The princely grandeur of his retinue, 

1 This was Henry, born in February 1155 (Eobert de Monte, 
A.D. 1155), usually called primogenitus filius regis, as his elder 
brother William died in infancy; sometimes described as rex 
juvenis or junior, sometimes actually (after his coronation in 
1170) as Henricus tertius. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 26. 


the largess which he lavished on court and city and 
university alike at Paris, the contingent of seven 
hundred knights and soldiers of his own household, 
the array of mercenaries, horse and foot, fully five 
thousand all told all within the space of two years 
represent an amount of expenditure which few baro- 
nial revenues could have sustained. It is difficult 
to credit Fitzstephen's statement that these expenses 
all came out of the chancellor's own purse. It is 
possible that Fitzstephen has in some cases attri- 
buted to the personal expenditure of the chancellor 
sums that were really expended by him as a royal 
official out of the king's revenues. He states, for 
instance, that when the Norwegian envoys came to 
England, Thomas sent his own representative to 
escort them to the king's court and supply all their 
wants nomine cancellarii 1 . But in the brief notice 
of this embassy in the Pipe Rolls the chancellor is 
not mentioned ; and the phrase per breve regis with 
which the entry concludes seems rather to imply 
that the expenditure was authorised by the chan- 
cellor officially, if at all, not undertaken by him as 
an act of private hospitality 2 . Again, Fitzstephen 
puts down the equipment and maintenance of the 
chancellor's contingent in the war of Toulouse entirely 
to his private account ; but it is at least possible 
that Edward Grim is nearer the mark in dividing 

1 Fitzst. iii. 26. 

2 Pipe Roll 2 Henry II. p. 4, in the accounts of the sheriffs of 
London : et in donis quae Rex misit Regibus de Norwega et in 
liberation* nuntiorum Eegum, 37. 2s. 8d. per breve Regis. Cp. 
the accounts of the sheriff of Cambridgeshire (p. 15) : et nuntiis 
Regum de Norwega, 3s. 


the cost between the chancellor's private purse and 
the king's treasury 1 . 

Another suggestion has been made with a view 
to discounting the possibly exaggerated statements 
of the chancellor's expenditure. It has been sug- 
gested that the extravagant banquets described by 
Fitzstephen took place in the aula regis and at the 
king's cost, that it was the policy of Thomas to 
attract the nobility to the court and strengthen the 
hands of the Crown by maintaining the traditions 
of royal hospitality which Henry seemed inclined to 
neglect, that Thomas in other words was merely 
acting as deputy host, presiding in the name of the 
king, who was only an occasional visitor at his own 
royal table where earls and barons met at the great 
national councils. On this supposition Thomas' 
private establishment cost him comparatively little, 
and it was the resources thus economised that he 
lavished in the interests of his king and country 
on the embassy to Paris and the campaigns of Tou- 
louse and Normandy. This idea has been well 
worked out by the biographer of the archbishops 
of Canterbury in his life of Thomas 2 . But it seems 
irreconcilable with the incidental allusions of con- 
temporary writers which point to the household of 

1 Grim, ii. 364 : larga nimirum ac liberali manu tarn proprios 
quam regni reditvs profudit in militum stipendiis et donariis 
profuturos. This is not quite clear. It may mean that besides 
his private expenditure on his own contingent he acted as pay- 
master-general in collecting and maintaining out of the royal 
revenues the great army of mercenaries which the scutage of 1159 
enabled Henry to employ. 

2 Dean Hook, Archbishops of Canterbury, ii. 367-369. 


Thomas the chancellor as almost a rival court. 
Grim notes that his retinue and guest-roll were 
no less imposing than the king's ; in fact the king, 
he says, complained more than once that Thomas 
had emptied the royal board 1 . Fitzstephen's lan- 
guage 2 too seems as distinctly to prove that the 
grandeur of which he speaks was the hospitality 
of a separate establishment of the chancellor's own, 
not the hospitality of the royal hall administered 
by proxy for a king who " affected to despise almost 
the decencies of society." 

It is quite possible however that Thomas had 
some aim of state policy in view, though the hospi- 
tality was his own. The magnificence of his embassy 
to Paris was prompted largely by a desire to impress 
the French court and people with the greatness of 
English royalty as seen in the person of its accredited 
representative. In a similar way the splendid hos- 
pitality of his establishment at home may have been 
intended partly to throw a lustre round the precincts 
of the court and make the royal household a social 
centre from which the influence of the Crown would 
tell upon the feudal baronage none the less power- 
fully because peacefully exerted. Thomas may have 
been led into this extravagant outlay not so much 
by the purely selfish motive of personal vanity as by 

1 Grim, ii. 363: nee cancellario prorsus quam regi minor 
comitatus adhaesit ita ut nonnunquam corriperetur a rege quod 
regis hospitium vacuasset. Cp. the similar language of Auct. 
Anon. i. iv. 13. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 25: aliquotiens ad hospitium cancellarii rex 
comedebat, turn ludendi causa, turn gratia videndi quae de ejus 
domo et mensa narrabantur. 


that "expansive selfishness," as it has been well 
described, which made him identify himself with the 
cause to which he was attached by force of circum- 
stances. If this view is tenable, then the suggestion 
that Thomas did not always discriminate in his 
expenditure between his private income and the 
royal revenues which passed through his hands loses 
something of the discredit which it involves. It 
would still amount, plainly speaking, to a charge 
of misappropriation, but not of personal aggrandise- 
ment. Thomas may have mixed up some of the 
king's revenues with his own ; but both alike were 
spent as much on the glorification of the Crown 
as on the magnifying of himself and his office. 

The chan- Jj u t the facts of the case scarcely require such a 
cellar's . . . . 

income. supposition. If his expenditure was enormous, his 

income was also enormous. His official allowance 
as a resident member of the royal household, which 
is recorded in the Black Book of the Exchequer 1 , 
was perhaps the least part of his total income. It 
consisted of five shillings a day in the currency of 
the time, one plain simnel, two spiced simnels, a 

1 An important document of Henry II.'s reign, quoted in 
Madox, Exchequer, p. 43: haec est constitutio domus regiae, de 
procurationibus : cancellarius vs. in die, etc. The same allow- 
ance was made to the steward (dapifer), the chief butler (magister 
pincerna), the chief chamberlain (camerarins), the treasurer, the 
constable, and the chief marshal (Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 345, 
note on Liber Niger Scaccarii). It was therefore no sumptuous 
salary, judging from the minor importance of the officials who 
received the same allowance. The chancellor, it must be re- 
membered, was strictly only the secretary of the royal household 
until Thomas lifted the office to the higher level of a minister of 


sextary of clear wine, a sextary of ordinary house- 
hold wine, one large wax candle, and forty pieces of 
candle besides. It was evidently intended to meet 
the necessary current expenses of his household and 
nothing more. The bulk of the chancellor's income 
was derived from other sources, ecclesiastical and 
secular. He still retained the rich archdeaconry of 
Canterbury and other lucrative preferments bestowed 
upon him by Theobald, his prebends and his canon- 
ries, and he now held in addition the deanery of 
Hastings, acquired since his appointment to the 
chancellorship. Other posts of importance he held 
by royal grant. The king was as generous to his 
chancellor as the primate had been to his clerk ; and 
Thomas was placed in charge of the Tower of 
London with its military guard, the castle of Eye 
with its hundred and forty knights, and the castle of 
Berkhampstead \ The permanent income of the 
chancellor, it will be seen, must have reached a high 
figure. But it was apparently augmented still 
further to meet the chancellor's expenses. There 
was a rumour afloat in 1160 that the king had 

1 Fitzst. iii. 20. Cp. the list of preferments attributed to him 
by the prior of Leicester (ib. p. 26). 

The tower of London was, along with Windsor, in the charge 
of Kichard de Luci at the time of the settlement of the Crown in 
1153 (Bymer, Foedera, i. 8). Vacant baronies falling into the 
hands of the Crown, if not granted out again to another lord, were 
retained by the Crown and farmed like a shire under the title of an 
honor. Some of these honores were utilised as a source of income 
for ministers of the Crown (Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 401, note). 

Thomas cancellarius appears in the Pipe Rolls 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 
Henry II. as responsible for the ferm due to the king from 
Berkhampstead . 


granted the revenues of three vacant sees to swell 
the income of his favourite minister 1 . It was a 
source of grave anxiety to Archbishop Theobald and 
his faithful secretary John of Salisbury, who were 
hoping for the chancellor's influence in securing the 
speedy appointment of their candidate to the vacant 
see of Exeter. It may have been true, it may have 
been false; but it is at least an indication that 
Henry and Thomas between them took care that 
the chancellor's income kept pace with his ex- 

The The disparity therefore between his income and 

fronT" n * s ex P en diture proves less on inspection than it 

secular ob- seems at first sight, even if it does not vanish 

igaions, a ^ O g e ^ ner g u ^ fa e suspicion of maladministration 

rests partly on another ground, the subsequent 

demand which the king made in 1164 for the 

accounts of his stewardship in the matter of vacant 

sees and baronies. Its date falls beyond the limits 

of this essay, but its retrospective bearing on the 

chancellorship of Thomas is too important to leave 

it out of consideration. The facts are as follows. 

After his election as archbishop at London and 

before his consecration, Thomas was released from 

all secular obligations, at the earnest request of 

Henry bishop of Winchester 2 , by Richard de Luci 

1 Job. S. Ep. 9 (v. 14) : fama est apud nos quod trium 
vacantium episcopatuum reditus ad liberationem vestram vobis 
dominus rex concesserit. 

2 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 17. Bishop Henry's speech to "the 
young king": dominus, ait, cancellarius, electus noster, multo 
jam tempore in domo regis patris vestri et in omni regno sum- 
mum obtinuit locum, habuitque in dispositione sua regnum, nee 


the justiciar, the king's little son Henry and a 
number of the barons in the name of the king, who 
was then absent in Normandy. About the simple 
fact of this release there is no doubt. It was 
mentioned in the king's letter to the Pope re- 
questing the transmission of the pallium for the 
duly consecrated archbishop 1 . It is the meaning 
and extent of the release that is uncertain. 

Two years later this quittance was challenged at Council of 
the Council of Northampton in October 1164. Our ton, 1164. 
information as to the facts of this trial comes direct 
at first hand. Two of Thomas' biographers, Fitz- 
stephen and Herbert of Bosham, were present at the 
council in attendance on the archbishop, and they 
have both recorded the proceedings in full, though 
not always in agreement on points of detail 2 . Fitz- 
stephen mentions three distinct attacks made upon 
the archbishop. (1) Thomas was first required to 
account for 300 received by him as warden of the 
" honours " of Eye and Berkhampstead. He refused 
to recognize the charge as a formal indictment : he 
had been cited to defend himself against John the 
marshal, and had received no notice of any further 

aliquid in tempore suo in regno actitatum est nisi ad suum 
arbitrium; unde eum liberum et absolutum ab omni nexu et 
ministerio curiali, ab omni etiam querela et calumnia, omnique 
penitus occasione ecclesiae Dei et nobis tradi postulamus, 
quatenus ab bac bora et deinceps emancipatus et expeditus quae 
Dei sunt libere exsequatur. Cp. Grim, ii. 367. Fitzst. iii. 36. 

1 Auct. Anon. n. iv. 105. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 53 foil. Herb. iii. 298 foil. Ealph de Diceto 
(afterwards dean of London) was also present at the council 
(Fitzst. iii. 59), and collateral information of some value is given 
in his Imagines Historiarum, A.D. 1164. 


proceedings. But he made an informal reply to 
the king's demands. The money had been spent, 
with a great deal more, on the repair of the Tower 
of London 1 and the two castles in question 2 . This, 
he said, was plain enough for eyes to see. The king 
however refused to acknowledge the fact, and claimed 
a judicial verdict ; and the archbishop, unwilling to 
quarrel with the king on a matter of money, con- 
sented to pay what was demanded of him, and found 
lay sureties for the sum. But heavier charges were 
in reserve. (2) The next day the kiug claimed by 
messenger two separate sums of 500 marks each, the 
one lent to Thomas by the king for the expedition 
of Toulouse, the other borrowed by Thomas from a 
Jewish money-lender on the king's security. Herbert 
of Bosham (who mentions one sum only of 500, 
claimed by the king in repayment of a loan) gives 
the archbishop's reply 3 . He admitted the receipt of 
the money, but described it as a gift, not a loan, and 
reproached the king in person with meanness in 

1 Fitzst. iii. 19 dwells with admiration on the rapidity with 
which the repairs were effected under the chancellor's orders 
between Easter and Whitsuntide, though the place was almost a 
ruin at the outset. The accounts of the sheriffs of London in the 
Pipe Roll of 2 Henry II. (p. 3) contain an item of 6. 15s. Wd. 
ad munitionem turris, which perhaps should be referred to these 

2 The Pipe Bolls speak for the sums expended by Thomas on 
Berkhampstead : e.g. Pipe Eoll 2 Henry II. p. 21: in operatione 
castelli 63s. et in restauratione manorii 13. 14s. Pipe Koll 
4 Henry II. p. 152 : in reficiendis domibus regis 10. Cp. similar 
entries in Pipe Koll 5 Henry II. p. 7, 6 Henry II. p. 12, and 
7 Henry H. p. 68. 

3 Herb. iii. 298. 


recalling his own present as a debt. Thomas how- 
ever could not prove the gift, and the Curia Regis 
bishops and barons alike gave a verdict in favour 
of the king. The primate's property, they alleged, 
had been confiscated by the verdict of the previous 
day in the case of John the marshal ; but five of his 
friends came forward as sureties for the payment of 
the sum claimed. (3) Last came the most crushing 
blow of all, a comprehensive demand for the accounts 
of all the revenues received by the chancellor from 
the vacant archbishopric, bishoprics, abbeys, baronies 
and honours which had been entrusted to his charge 1 . 
The total was estimated at 30,000 marks. The 
archbishop declared that the king had received more 
than once an account of these revenues, which had 
been spent, he said, on the king's business 2 . But 
his main defence was the fact that he had been 
released publicly in the king's name from all secular 
obligations at the time of his election to the 
primacy. He reminded the king of this fact in his 
own reply before the court, and it was also pleaded 
on his behalf by Henry bishop of Winchester, whose 
testimony was supported by the other bishops in a 
body 3 . We are not here concerned with the sequel 
the king's angry persistence and the archbishop's 

1 Fitzst. iii. 54. Herb. iii. 299. Auct. Anon. i. iv. 49 says 
30,000, quas tempore cancellariae de pecunia regia minus caute 
expendisse a quibusdam deferebatur. 

2 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 49. Will. C. i. 38. 

3 Herb. iii. 300. According to Fitzstephen, iii. 63, Thomas 
had to appeal forcibly to their recollection in order to confute the 
obstinacy of the king, who persisted in ignoring the fact of the 


appeal to Rome in anticipation of the verdict of the 
king and the Curia Regis. The two points to be 
considered now are (1) the validity of the arch- 
bishop's plea and (2) the justice of the king's claim ; 
in other words, (1) the question whether the release 
from secular obligations in 1162 covered all pecuniary 
liabilities and precluded any future enquiry into 
those liabilities, and (2) the question whether there 
was any ground for the charge of maladministration 
which was implied in this demand for the accounts 
of the chancellorship. 

Meaning (i) ft i s evident that Thomas and his friends 

quittance, on their part regarded the quittance of 1162 as a 
full and sufficient bar against all pecuniary claims, 
precluding all enquiry into the financial side of 
the chancellor's administration. According to one 
biographer, Edward Grim, that was the avowed 
intention of the bishop of Winchester in asking for 
the formal release in question; and the king's 
ministers interpreted it at the time in the same 
light as the bishop 1 . John of Salisbury, in a letter 
written to Baldwin, archdeacon of Exeter, two years 
after the Council of Northampton, brings it forward 
as a conclusive answer to an imaginary opponent. 
Some might assert, he says, that Thomas, conscious 

1 Grim, ii. 367 (the bishop's speech): "cancellarius ut primus 
patriae thesauros regis et reditus regni in manu habuit, et ut 
diversa poscebant negotia tractavit. Verum ne cui in posterum 
pateat exactioni vel calumniae quasi qui pro libera magis volun- 
tate quam regni commodo dissipaverit bona domini sui, liberum 
eum et absolutum ab omni reclamatione suscipimus." Ad quern 
ministri regis, "ex ore," inquiunt, "regis liberum eum clamamus 
ab omni calumnia et exactione nunc et in omne tempus." 


of his defalcations and doubtful of his own dexterity, 
had fallen back upon " an imprudent and impudent 
subterfuge " which amounted to a tacit confession of 
his guilt and a justification of his opponents' pro- 
cedure 1 . In reply to this charge John simply repeats 
the fact of this quittance of 1162 a fact none the 
less certain because the king had ignored it at 
Northampton*. But that was not the view taken 
by everybody. Gilbert Foliot's famous letter of 
remonstrance in 1166 throws a different light on the 
question. Speaking of this very trial of 1164, he 
regrets that Thomas had allowed his mistaken zeal 
to drive him into defiance of the jurisdiction of the 
king's court. The king, he says, was only acting 
within his rights in asking for a legal settlement of 
a financial claim 3 . There was no danger to Thomas 

1 Job. S. Ep. 263 (vi. 96): sed fortasse dicet aliquis, . . .in 
pecuniaria (causa) conventus, in jure sibi conscius iniquitatis et 
de praestigiis suis diffisus, subterfugio imprudent! et impudenti 
suam quodam modo, immo plane, professus est injustitiam et 
partem justificavit adversam. It is not clear whether the subter- 
fuge in question was the plea of quittance or the appeal to Borne 
against the foregone conclusion of the case. Probably it was the 

2 Joh. S. Ep. 263 (vi. 97): quod certum erat revocabatur in 
dubium, ut comicum illud fere in omnium volveretur animis, 
" Quod scio, nescio." Quis enim nesciebat quod rex cancellarium 
suum ob omni administratione et obligatione liberum reddidit ad 
regimen Cantuariensis ecclesiae ? 

3 Foliot, Ep. 225 (v. 535): utinam...cum a vobis debita 
quaedam reposceret dominus noster rex, cum de summa pecuniae 
quam in manu vestra ex caducis quibusdam excrevisse memora- 
bat, quod jus dictaret id eibi solum peteret exhiberi, ad decli- 
nandum regalis curiae judicium tune se vester minime zelus 

R. 10 


involved in the trial. Then referring to this disputed 
quittance of 1162 he remarks: "The king wished 
you to be transferred from the court to the govern- 
ment of the Church ; and by that very fact released 
you, as the majority consider, from the obligations 
of his service. If there was no reference to debts, if 
promotion did not carry with it any release from such 
debts, then the difficulty could have been met 
almost entirely by a formal plea to the effect that 
the money had been spent on the king's business ; 
and if there was any item that could not be included 
in the account, then the king's claim, which was 
prompted by irritation rather than by deliberate 
avarice, might have been satisfied quietly, and this 
legal enquiry might have come to a peaceful and 
honourable conclusion without such a storm as 
this 1 ." Foliot expressed this view of the situation 
on more than one occasion. At the conference of 
Henry II. with the cardinals and prelates at Argentan 
in November 1167, as we learn from a friend of 
Thomas who described the meeting in a letter to the 
archbishop, Foliot stated the case at issue from the 

1 Foliot, Ep. 225 (v. 535) : ad regimen ecclesiae vos a curia 
transferri voluit, et ab ipsius nexibus hoc ipso vos (ut plures 
opinantur) absolvit : quod si ad debita minime referendum est, ut 
evectus loco sic absolvatur a debito, poterat negotium per ex- 
ceptionem in rem versum plurimum expediri, et siquid compoto 
nequivisset includi, irate magis repetenti sua quam avide de 
reliquo poterat satisdari, et civilis haec causa absque hoc rerum 
turbine pace poterat honestissima tenninari. Foliot complains 
that Thomas had chosen instead to create a sensation by standing 
upon his dignity as archbishop of Canterbury and denouncing the 
trial of a primate by the king's court as an unprecedented act of 


same point of view that he had already taken in his 
letter of remonstrance quoted above. He related 
how the king at Northampton had demanded 44000 
marks in all on account of revenues entrusted to the 
chancellor's control, and how Thomas had replied 
that in the first place he was not involved in debt to 
the king at the time of his elevation to the primacy, 
and, secondly, even if he had been so implicated, 
he was absolved by the very fact of his promotion. 
" At this point," says Thomas' informant, " the 
bishop of London ridiculed you, remarking that you 
believed that debts were remitted on promotion like 
sins in baptism 1 ." 

Foliot was not the only man who doubted the 
validity of this plea of quittance. Ralph de Diceto, 
who was present at the trial in 1164, says there were 
many persons who thought that an account might 
justly be exacted from the archbishop notwithstand- 
ing the fact of this quittance, which, he says, Thomas 
was unable to trace back to the king's consent 2 . 
There is besides an expression in Herbert of Bosham's 
story of the trial which has been interpreted as a 
proof that the idea of pleading this quittance as a 
bar to the king's action only came to the bishop 
of Winchester as a second thought an expedient 
that suggested itself after, if not in consequence of, 
the discussion of the crisis with the rest of the 
bishops 3 . The question is further complicated by 

1 Ep. 339 (vi. 271) : et ibi derisit vos Londoniensis, dicens vos 
credere quod, sicut in baptismo remittuntur peccata, ita et in 
promotione relaxantur debita. 

2 Ralph de Diceto, A.D. 1164 (537 Twysden). 

3 Herb. iii. 300: verumtamen convocatis pontificibus, post 



the fact that the king, who, by mentioning the 
release in his despatch to the Pope, sanctioned it 
afterwards, whether he had previously authorised it 
or not, evidently expected Thomas to retain the 
chancellorship. It is not easy therefore to understand 
in what light the king regarded this quittance. 
Thomas on his part may have meditated or foreseen 
a speedy resignation of the chancellorship, in which 
case the quittance might stand him in good stead as 
a defence against vexatious charges. But from the 
king's point of view the prospect of having the 
chancellorship and the primacy united in the hands 
of the same minister this release, if it referred to 
financial obligations, could only mean a remission of 
liabilities which would at once begin to reaccumulate. 
It is difficult from that point of view to avoid the 
suspicion that Thomas and his friends strained the 
meaning of this formal release. Foliot and the 
Curia Regis clearly denied its validity as a bar 
against subsequent enquiry into the financial trans- 
actions of Thomas' chancellorship. Yet it could not 
be regarded by the king as a release from secular 
duties, for he was counting all the while on the 
continuance of Thomas' services as chancellor, and 
Thomas did continue to act as chancellor for some 
little time after his consecration. It was evidently 

deliberationem multam quid respondendum agendumve ad haec... 
Henricus tune Wintoniensis episcopus, qui quidem archipraesuli 
favit sed propter metum occultus, tandem recordatus est quod 
in electione archipraesulis, tune Cantuariensis archidiaconi et 
regis cancellarii, ab omnibus curiae nexibus Anglicanae ecclesiae 
redditus fuerit absolutus. Robertson, Becket, Appendix xvii. 
p. 337. 


something that was considered a necessary precaution 
in the interests of the primacy and the Church. 
Fitzstephen compares it to the custom of requiring 
an abbot to renounce all claims on the obedience of 
any monk who had been elected abbot of another 
monastery, before the abbot-elect could enter upon 
his new responsibilities 1 . It could scarcely be a 
mere recognition of the fact that in case of a conflict 
of interests the ecclesiastical duty of the primate 
must take precedence of the secular duty of the 
chancellor. Fitzstephen's parallel would seem to 
imply an absolute transference from the service of 
the king to the service of the Church ; and if it were 
only certain that Thomas and his friend the bishop 
of Winchester had the immediate resignation of the 
chancellorship in view, the release would be perfectly 
intelligible on their side. It would be an obvious 
precaution against retrospective charges of malad- 
ministration ; and it would involve in their intention 
both a quittance of all financial claims and a release 
from all secular duties. It is just this absence 
of evidence as to the intentions of Thomas and his 
friends and the expectations of the justiciar and the 
other consenting parties with regard to the tenure 
or resignation of the chancellorship that makes it 

1 Fitzst. iii. 54 : Cantuariensi ecclesiae redditus fuerat liber a 
cancellaria et omni regis saeculari querela; cum quaelibet etiam 
abbatia vacans monachum alienum abbatem sibi electum recipere 
nolit, nisi immunem ab omni obedientia abbatis ejus sibi dimis- 
sum. This may be a comment of Fitzstephen's own upon the 
advice given to Thomas at Northampton by his friends the 
bishops ; or it may be part of their advice, a suggestion that he 
should rely upon this plea of quittance. 


impossible to pronounce with certainty upon the 
meaning attached to this formal release. It is 
possible that it was given without any specification 
of its precise bearing ; but it is hardly probable that 
it was requested without some definite idea of what 
was wanted. The language of the contemporary 
biographers though perhaps somewhat coloured by 
the turn which events had taken at Northampton 
is too emphatic for us to accept with regard to 
Thomas and his friends the statement of a modern 
biographer that it is " doubtful whether the release 
was understood as an acquittance of all pecuniary 
claims until such an interpretation was devised by 
way of meeting claims actually made 1 ." 

(2) Granting however what is by no means 
certain that the king was justified in denying the 
financial bearing of this release, was in other words 
strictly within his rights in claiming the accounts of 
the chancellorship, as Foliot and others thought he 
was, a further question still remains to be discussed. 
Was he justified by the character of Thomas' ad- 
ministration in persisting in his demand ? What 
weight are we to attach to the charge of misappro- 
priation which his claim implied ? The balance of 
probability inclines in favour of the integrity of 
Thomas. The Council of Northampton was intended 
from the beginning to strike a deadly blow at the 
archbishop. He was cited as a common offender, 
greeted on his arrival with studied insult, and 
assailed with a series of charges of which he had 
received no previous notice, all evidently part of a 
1 Robertson, Becket, App. xvii. p. 337. 


concerted plan for his humiliation. The fact that 
the demand for the accounts of his chancellorship 
was issued now for the first time, two years after his 
resignation of the office, looks suspicious at the 
outset. It bears the mark of personal enmity. It 
has the appearance of a demand that would never 
have been made if the mutual relations of king and 
archbishop had never been disturbed, or if there had 
been other means at the king's disposal of crushing 
the archbishop. This suspicion is confirmed by 
Thomas' own reply. He asserted in the first place 
that the king had seen his accounts, and, it must be 
supposed, approved of them ; secondly, that he had 
himself expended private means of his own on 
royal business and thereby incurred serious debts 1 . 
If we may take Thomas at his word (and there is no 
reason why we should not), there was no ground for 
the insinuation that he had played the unjust 
steward during his tenure of the chancellorship. 
It has been suggested on the other hand that 
the evident anxiety of the bishop of Winchester to 
obtain the quittance in 1162 lends some colour to 
the idea that " no very strict account was kept of the 
king's moneys spent by the chancellor in the king's 
service and those expended by the chancellor him- 
self 2 ." At first sight this supposition seems to fall 
in with the fact that the bishop of Winchester's first 
advice to Thomas on receipt of the king's demand at 
Northampton was to compound with the king, and 
a sum of 2000 marks was actually offered to the king 

1 Fitzst. iii. 63. Will. C. i. 38. 

2 Milman, Latin Christianity, iii. 451. 


and refused by him 1 . But a compromise is not 
always tantamount to a confession of guilt. It is 
just as probable that the bishop's advice was 
prompted by the conviction that Thomas' assertion 
of innocence would be of no avail against an 
infuriated king and a court that would take its cue 
from the king, whereas a partial concession might 
stave off the dreaded blow. The question resolves 
itself into a balancing of probabilities ; and the scale 
is turned in favour of Thomas by the fact that the 
charge of pecuniary maladministration, which John 
of Salisbury declares to have been false, was after- 
wards dropped*. 

1 Fitzst. iii. 54. 

2 Job. S. Ep. 263 (written in 1166 to Baldwin archdeacon of 
Exeter), vi. 103 : the only question, he says, now at issue between 
the king and the archbishop is the dispute between the civil and 
the ecclesiastical jurisdictions: et de causa pecuniaria (quae tune 
quidem simulabatur et in veritate nulla erat) nee mentio est. 
This was only two years after the crisis at Northampton. 



As ambassador, soldier, justiciar and minister of The 
state, Thomas had surpassed all expectation, and ^^ap- J 
more than justified his promotion to the king's P int ent 

, c mainly 

service. But it was not to win such laurels as these ecclesiasti- 
that he was brought within reach of the chancellor- cal ' 
ship. The intentions of his patron Theobald were 
obvious to the early biographers. Thomas was to 
serve two masters, the king and the archbishop, and 
maintain the balance between the conflicting claims 
of the Crown and the Church in favour of the latter. 
He was placed at the king's side as an ecclesiastic 
and for ecclesiastical purposes. Theobald had " dis- 
cerned with prophetic sagacity his archdeacon's lofty 
and devoted churchmanship 1 ." By his negotiations 
with the Papal court Thomas had thwarted both 
Stephen and Henry of Blois and strengthened the 
hands of the archbishop against an ambitious prelate 
and an unstable king. And when on the accession of 
Henry the Second the Church was threatened with 

1 Milman, Latin Christianity, iii. 448. 


the loss of material wealth and the loss of privilege, 
it was to the influence of Thomas that Theobald 
looked to stem the threatening tide of reaction, and 
even perhaps to extend the jurisdiction of the Church 
by securing for the canon law a wider sphere of 
Itsful- application. When however we turn to the bio- 

fiiment: orraphers of Thomas to ascertain how far he fulfilled 

testimony r 

of the bio- the archbishop's expectations, we are met by serious 

grap ers. (j^jgpQj^^^^ AS a rule they confine themselves to 
general statements more or less difficult to reconcile. 
William of Canterbury and John of Salisbury are 
both explicit enough in asserting that Thomas was 
frequently engaged on behalf of the Church in conflict 
with the king and the " wild beasts of the court," 
apparently a term of contempt for the anti-clerical 
party among the barons 1 . But William puts in a 
saving clause. He admits that Thomas' opposition 
to the king was kept within limits by his own feeling 
of respect and his dread of the royal anger. This 
qualification is borne out by one of the anonymous 
biographers, whose version puts Thomas in a some- 
what dubious light. He says that the king had 
already made up his mind to assert his power as he 
afterwards asserted it; but in the meantime the 
Church remained in peace and safety under the 

1 Job. S. ii. 305. Will. C. i. 5 : memor conditionis suae et 
oneris sibi impositi contra bestias curiae pugnavit portans ecclesiae 
necessitates, et, quatenus regia severitas et reverentia permisit, 
contra regem ipsum contendens tamquam quodam futurorum 
praesagio sub pacis tempore dimicabat in acie. Freeman traces 
the term 'bestias curiae' to an expression applied by Boethius to 
his enemies at the court of Theodoric, but wrongly attributes its 
use to John of Salisbury alone. 


protection of Thomas, who kept king and court alike 
in check by a cautious opposition, partly concealed 
in order to preclude suspicion of his real intentions 1 . 
Elsewhere, in his account of Thomas' promotion to 
the primacy, he remarks that the king quite expected 
to find him a compliant archbishop, as he had 
deliberately adopted an attitude of severity towards 
all ecclesiastical persons and claims, in order to divert 
suspicion from himself and keep in closer touch with 
the royal temper which he had learned to know so 
well 2 . A second anonymous writer, by entering 
upon an elaborate apology for what he describes as 
the forced acquiescence of the chancellor, bears 
witness, all the more striking because reluctantly 
given, to the fact that Thomas was considered at the 
time responsible for much of the king's anti-ecclesi- 
astical policy 3 . Lastly, the objections to Thomas' 
elevation to the primacy, so frankly stated by his 
most devoted biographers, reveal a strong feeling in 
certain ecclesiastical circles that Thomas was no 
friend to the claims and interests of the Church 4 . 

1 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 12: ipso...caute et quasi ex occulto, ne 
suspicion! pateret, frustrante. 

2 Auot. Anon. i. iv. 14: Thomas namque ex industria circa 
personas et res ecclesiasticas quasi severigsimum se exhibebat, ut 
tali occasione omnem a se suspicionis notam excuteret, et regis 
voluntati, quam intime noverat, melius sub hac palliatione con- 
veniret. The Saga (i. 47) attributes this design to Theobald ! 

3 Auct. Anon. n. iv. 87. 

4 Herb. iii. 183. Auct. Anon. n. iv. 85. Cp. John of Salis- 
bury's letter to the archdeacon of Exeter in 1166 (Ep. 263, 
vi. 101), in which he contrasts ironically the popularity of the 
chancellor with the enmity roused by his stricter conduct as 
archbishop. Certe dum magnificus erat nugator in curia, dum 


To say the least, the chancellor had not distinguished 
himself as an ecclesiastic in the opinion of his fellow- 

The facts to be considered in estimating the 
chancellor's relation to the Church fall under four 
heads : (1) his share in the financial oppression of 
the Church, (2) his disposal of church preferment, 
(3) his attitude towards the claims of ecclesiastical 
jurisdiction, (4) his personal relations with the 
veteran archbishop of Canterbury. 
(1) Finan- The chief ecclesiastical grievance in the earlier 
' P ar ^ f the reign was the exaction of scutage from 

(a) The the lands of the Church in 1159 to provide Henry 
and the with funds for the war of Toulouse. Gervase calls it 
scutage. an unprecedented exaction 1 , but it was not the first 

legis contemptor videbatur et cleri, dum scurriles cum potentiori- 
bus sectabatur ineptias, magnus habebatur, clarus erat et acceptus 
omnibus, et solus dignissimus summo pontificio ab universis 
conclainabatur et singulis. At first sight this seems a flat 
contradiction of the statement in his life of Thomas (ii. 305) 
that Thomas was obliged incessantly "pugnare ad bestias curiae." 
Freeman has attempted to reconcile the discrepancy (Contemp. 
Review, vol. 32, p. 481). " There is no real contradiction," he 
says. " John of Salisbury speaking with different objects in the 
two passages not unnaturally gave each a different tone and 
colour. But there is no contradiction as to fact. Thomas led 
the life of a layman; he did not stand up for ecclesiastical 
claims as he afterwards did ; he may have seemed to be a despiser 
of the canon law and the clergy ; and yet he may (which is what 
John of Salisbury really says that he did) have withstood acts of 
oppression whether directed against churchmen or laymen. The 
beasts of the court had to be withstood on behalf of both pro 
necessitate ecclesiae et provincialium." 

1 Gervase, Chron. A.D. 1159 (col. 1381, Twysden): inauditam 
census exactionem. 


instance of scutage. The Red Book of the Exchequer 
contains a notice of a scutage levied in 1156, the 
second year of Henry's reign, which the compiler of 
that record describes as the first of all the scutages. 
It was assessed at the rate of 20 shillings on each 
knight's fee, and was confined to the lands of those 
prelates who held in capite of the Crown. Theobald 
opposed its exaction, as we infer from a remark in 
one of John of Salisbury's letters ; and it is not 
certain whether his lands were compelled to pay the 
tax 1 . This first scutage was a new form of taxation ; 
but the novelty consisted apparently in the new 
basis of rating, the knight's fee (scutum) being taken 
as the unit of calculation instead of the old hide of 
land 2 . The more famous scutage of 1159 was some- 
thing very different. It was more comprehensive, 
extending as it did to all tenants by knight-service, 

1 Stubbs, Const. Hist. I 577. Job. S. Ep. 128 (Giles, vol. i. 
p. 178), writing to William bishop of Norwich, says that a message 
has come from the king promising to grant certain requests that 
had been made by Theobald, but declining to remit the scutage. 
In omnibus enim consiliis domini archiepiscopi adquiescet et 
honori et utilitati ecclesiae tota mentis intentione studiosus 
invigilabit. Verum scutagium remittere non potest et a quibusdam 
exactionibus abstinere, quoniam fratris gratia male sarta nequid- 
quam coiit. This allusion fixes the date of the scutage. It was 
levied for the war against Geoffrey in 1156. The compiler of the 
Liber Ruber Scaccarii (Alexander Swerford) says it was raised for 
the Welsh war: pro exercitu Walliae super prelates tantum qui 
ad militaria servicia tenentur assisum. But the Welsh campaign 
was in 1157-1158. 

Stubbs (Const. Hist. i. 454) thinks that this scutage was 
perhaps suggested by the chancellor ; but the original authorities 
are silent on this question. 

2 Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 581, 582. 


whereas the earlier scutage was only levied on the 
fees in possession of bishops and abbots 1 . It was 
assessed at a heavier rate, two marks on each fee. 
But the real innovation consisted in the fact that it 
was levied as a commutation for personal military 
service. Such is the meaning attached to the term 
scutagium from this date onwards. The only persons 
exempt from the charge were the barons of the 
Exchequer 2 . The clergy seem to have objected to 
the exaction on the ground that they were not liable 
to military service ; but this objection was ignored. 
The lands of the Church were considered as held by 
the same feudal tenure as those of the secular barons, 
and no distinction was made between the two classes 
in levying this scutage. 

It was the second exaction that roused the 
indignation of the Church 3 . The blow was resented 
by the clergy all the more keenly because it was 
believed to come from the hand of the chancellor, 
himself an officer of the Church. Years afterwards 
the charge was flung in the teeth of Thomas the 

1 Notices of the scutage of 1156 occur in plenty in the Pipe Roll 
of 2 Henry II., e. g. the sheriff of Hampshire accounts for 49. 10s. 
de scutagio militum episcopi Wintoniensis, and 16. 13s. 4d. de 
scutagio militum abbatis de Hida (p. 56, Hunter). 

2 Dial. Scacc. i. 9: ab hoc (scutagio) quieti sunt ad scaccarium 

3 Miss Norgate (England under the Angevin Kings, i. 433), 
speaking of the scutage of 1156, remarks that "at the moment no 
resentment seems to have been provoked by the measure; its 
ultimate tendency was not foreseen, the sum actually demanded 
was not great, and the innovation was condoned on the ground of 
the king's lawful need and in the belief that it was only an 
isolated demand." 


archbishop by the leader of the ecclesiastical opposi- 
tion, Gilbert Foliot bishop of London. Foliot told 
him plainly in the famous remonstrance of 1166 that 
his election to the primacy was the result of sheer 
coercion. The Church, he said, had yielded for fear 
of a worse evil ; she had submitted to his intrusion 
in order to avoid a repetition of the cruel exaction 
under which she had already groaned when he 
robbed her of so many thousand marks for the war 
of Toulouse 1 . John of Salisbury is the only one of 
the chancellor's friends that has dealt with this 
measure in particular. In a letter written in exile 
to Bartholomew bishop of Exeter in 1166 he de- 
scribes the failure of the king's ambitious projects 
as a retributive judgment on his oppression of the 
Church, and singles out this scutage as the crowning 
enormity. He hints that an arbitrary and undue 
proportion of the tax had fallen upon the Church in 
comparison with the share paid by the baronage 2 . 
Then turning to deal with the assertion that it was 
the work of the chancellor, whose influence was then 
supreme with the king, he says that the charge was 
false. The chancellor did not suggest the exaction ; 

1 Foliot, Ep. 235 (v. 525): stabat regni gladius in manu 

vestra ille quidem gladius quern in sanctae matris ecclesiae 

viscera vestra paulo ante manus immerserat, cum ad trajiciendum 
in Tolosam exercitum tot ipsam marcarum millibus aporiastis. 

2 Job. S. Ep. 194 (v. 378) : omnibus contra antiquum morem 
et debitam libertatem indixit ecclesiis ut pro arbitrio ejus et 
satraparum suorum conferrent in censum, nee permisit ut 
ecclesiae saltern proceribus coaequarentur in bac contributione 
vel magis exactione...nam ecclesiae in deteriori calculo verte- 
bantur. The churchman's indignation is concentrated in the op- 
probrious title of satrap with which he brands the rapacious sheriff. 


he only sanctioned what he could not prevent 1 . 
Yet even John is compelled to admit that Thomas 
was at least the instrument of this injustice (minister 
iniquitatis); and he recognises an appropriate Nemesis 
in the punishment of the archbishop by the hand of 
the very monarch whom the chancellor had obeyed 
in preference to God. This is an important admis- 
sion, coming as it does from one who was perhaps 
the truest, certainly the most candid, of Thomas' 
friends and his most impartial biographer. It does 
not stand alone. The view which John takes of the 
chancellor's conduct is echoed by one anonymous 
biographer, who explains at great length the diffi- 
culties of the position in which Thomas was placed, 
apologising in general terms for his acquiescence on 
the ground that it was not safe to oppose king and 
court beyond a certain point. It was the chancellor's 
place not to argue but obey, and tolerate where he 
could not praise. He adds that Thomas did some- 
times feel the zeal of God's house burn within him, 
and did venture more than once to protest in the 
name of the Church within the limits allowed by his 
fear of the king's displeasure 2 . There is no reason 

1 Job. S. Ep. 194 (v. 379): non auctoritatem praestitisse 
libidini sed obsecundationem necessitati. 

2 Auct. Anon. n. iv. 87. After recording the newly elected 
primate's resolve to defend the threatened liberties of the Church, 
the writer briefly states the crying grievances of the day : (1) the 
loss of judicial power, contra ecclesiae leges in disponendis ecclesi- 
asticis rebus, ut laicis, plus agebat manus regia quam censura 
canonica, (2) the loss of wealth under the royal exactions, per- 
sonis etiam ecclesiasticis indebitarum exactionum et concussionum 
onere multiplici saepius fatigatis. Sed et ejus enormitatis ipse, 


to doubt this statement; the chancellor's remon- 
strance against the marriage of the abbess Mary in 
1160 is an obvious instance in which he proved that 
he had convictions and the courage to give them 
vent; and more than one unfortunate cleric owed 
his escape from the king's vengeance to the timely 
interposition of the chancellor. But the fact remains 
that not one of the original authorities says a single 
word about any protest on the part of the chancellor 
against this scutage of 1159. 

Whatever share the chancellor had in the royal ( & ) The 
exactions, he can scarcely be acquitted of something deacon 
like personal extortion as archdeacon in the diocese nd . * l 'f, 

r aids. 

of Canterbury. Our authority for the facts is a 
letter addressed by Theo'bald to the chancellor 
himself. The old archbishop, just recovering from 
a dangerous illness, writes to say that he intends to 
spend his last days in reforming certain abuses 
which had arisen in his time or by his own fault in 
the administration of his see, especially the custom 
of "second aids" imposed by his brother the arch- 

quia regis ab eo videbatur pendere consilium, suasor et laudator ab 
aemulis dictus est. Verius autem ipsa per se regis animositas haec 
usurpabat. The young king, he adds, was carried away by his 
thirst for power, and his impetuosity was stimulated still further 
by the flattery of his courtiers. His igitur omnibus obviare 
cancellario soli tutum non fuerat ; sed nee censoris ad corrigen- 
dum personam gerebat, cui manebat necessitas obsequendi, non 
auctoritas arguendi. Proptereaque cum potestas esset et hora 
tenebrarum, prudentius in medio navigaverat, usurpationes magis 
dissimulans quam suadens, magis sustinens quam laudans. Zelo 
tamen domus Dei nonnunquam ingemuerat ; interdum etiam 
talium dissuasor esse praesumpserat, ea tamen quae decuit 
modestia, ne regis offensam incurreret. 

R. 11 


deacon. He has already released the churches from 
this burden, and forbidden its imposition in future 
on pain of excommunication, a resolution which he 
has confirmed by written instructions of his own 1 . 
He is quite sure that Thomas would sooner have his 

1 Theobald, Ep. 1 (v. 10): ...Deo vovimus inter caetera quod 
consuetudinem de secundis auxiliis, quam frater noster archidia- 
conus ecclesiis imposuit, destrueremus, et ab ea relaxantes 
ecclesias et liberantes, sub anathemate prohibuimus ne ulterius 
ab aliquo exigantur. Et ne hoc nostrum beneficium aut potius 
debitum in posterum valeat infirmari, hoc ipsum scripto nostro 
confirmavimus. The frater is Walter, Theobald's own brother, 
who was archdeacon of Canterbury until his promotion to the see 
of Rochester in 1147. Lord Lyttelton takes this letter to be 
addressed to Henry II. and explains frater noster archidiaconus as 
referring to Thomas, and secunda auxilia as the second scutage 
(1159). Father Morris, though right in interpreting the frater to 
be the archbishop's brother Walter, makes the same mistake as 
Lyttelton in explaining the auxilia as a part of the great scutage, 
in which, he adds, "there can be little doubt St Thomas 
cooperated with Henry." Strangely enough, in the very next 
sentence the learned Jesuit remarks by way of clearing his hero- 
saint, "But the archbishop attributes these subsidies to his own 
brother years before, and he is far from saying that the chancellor 
was responsible for them." The very fact that Theobald lays the 
original blame at his brother's door proves that the auxilia 
cannot refer to the scutage levied twelve years after his brother's 
promotion from Canterbury to Rochester. 

The "aids" in question are evidently a provision for the 
benefit of the archdeacon. The letter, though addressed Thomae 
cancellario, is an appeal to Thomas as archdeacon of Canterbury ; 
and the exaction which the old man's conscience condemned in 
what threatened to be the hour of death is clearly something 
which it was in his power as archbishop to control or abolish 
with the cooperation of the archdeacon, whose vested interests 
were at stake. It was a personal matter between the two: tu 
quoque si nostras praesens vidisses angustias, nostram rnalles 
auimam liberari quam de peccatis et damnatione nostra pecuniam 
et divitias infinitas acquirere. 


old master's conscience set at rest than enrich 
himself at the cost of his master's honour. For the 
present therefore he cannot listen to Thomas' de- 
mand for the exaction of this "aid" without breaking 
the vow made during his illness and endangering 
the welfare of his own soul ; but he trusts that on 
his recovery he will be able to provide for Thomas 
without having recourse to such methods of raising 
money. The letter ends with a pitiful entreaty for 
the chancellor's sanction, which shows how strongly 
the old primate felt the need of this reform. "I pray 
thee, welcome what I have done, for the whole world 
would avail me nought, if I had lost my soul." 

The archdeacon of the twelfth century was a 
proverbial character. It was an essentially secular 
office, usually reserved for a deacon as incompatible 
with the sacred calling of the priesthood, and 
notorious for its peculiar temptations, which made 
the eternal welfare of an archdeacon a stock theme 
for scholastic disputation, an possit archidiaconus 
salvus esse? 1 The rights of visitation and the 

1 Job. S. Ep. 166 (Giles, i. 260) , written to Nicolaus de Sigillo: 
erat, ut memini, genus hominum, qui in ecclesia Dei archidia- 
conorum nomine censentur, quibus vestra discretio omnem salutis 
viam querebatur esse praeclusam. Nam, ut dicere consuevistis, 
diligunt munera, sequuntur retributiones, ad injurias proni sunt, 
calumniis gaudent, peccata populi comedunt et bibunt, quibus 
vivitur ex rapto, ut non sit bospes ab bospite tutus. Cp. Free- 
man, Norm. Conqu. v. 497. Stubbs, Med. and Mod. Hist. pp. 139, 
301, 303. At the Council of Westminster, October 1163, the 
archdeacons as a class were accused of lording it over the flock 
and harassing the laity with false charges of crime, the clergy 
with undue extortion (Auct. Anon. n. iv. 96). A flagrant instance 
of extortion was brought home to an archdeacon and a rural 



judicial functions which belonged to the office were 
utilised to the full as means of extortion, until the 
bishop's archdeacon became as unpopular in the 
diocese as the king's sheriff was in the county. 
Thomas was preserved from the fate of an ordinary 
archdeacon by his constant attendance upon his 
royal master ; but it is quite evident from this letter 
of Theobald's that he was not beyond reproach. He 
drew without compunction with avidity almost, if 
we may so infer from the archbishop's doubtful and 
pathetic plea for a little self-sacrifice the ex- 
cessive profits that were wrung from the churches of 
the diocese for the benefit of its archdeacon. 
(2) Church According to Fitzstephen it was part of the 
' chancellor's office to administer the revenues of 
vacant sees and abbacies, as well as the lay-fiefs, as 
they reverted to the Crown 1 . It is certain that 
Thomas had a large amount of church preferment 
passing through his hands, either ex officio or by 
special favour of the king. Out of the fifty-two 
clerks in his household, we are told, many were 
engaged solely in the administration of vacant sees 
and abbeys or his own ecclesiastical benefices 2 . 

dean at York in 1158 in the king's presence, and he remarked, as 
he insisted on the punishment of the offending clerics, that the 
archdeacons and deans extorted more money in a year in the 
shape of fines from the inhabitants of his realm than he himself 
received as revenue (Fitzst. iii. 44). 

1 Fitzst. iii. 17 : ut vacantes archiepiscopatus, episcopatus, 
abbatias et baronias, cadentes in manu regis, ipse suscipiat et 

2 Fitzst. iii. 29: quinquaginta duos clericos cancellarius in 
obsequio suo habebat; quorum plurimi in suo erant comitatu, 


Here and there we get an occasional glimpse of the 
way in which Thomas discharged the responsibility 
which his influence with the king involved. Fitz- 
stephen the only biographer who has dealt with 
the subject of the chancellor's patronage is em- 
phatic in his praise of Thomas' conscientious disposal 
of church preferment. His own demands were 
modest, as Fitzstephen remarks with artless sim- 
plicity. He could have had all vacant parochial 
churches for himself, if he had so pleased. None 
would venture to refuse, if he chose to ask. But he 
showed the greatness of his heart by leaving them 
to poor clergy 1 . Magnanimus magna potius re- 
quirebat. His ambition soared to higher levels, 
the provostship of Beverley, for instance (which had 

plurimi curabant episcopatus, et abbatias vacantes aut ejus pro- 
prios honores ecclesiasticos. Some of these clerics superintended 
the revenues of vacant sees and abbeys ; others discharged the 
spiritual duties attached to the many livings and prebends which 
the chancellor held. 

1 Fitzst. iii. 20. Fitzstephen relates elsewhere (iii. 25, 26) 
a striking conversation that took place at Rouen between Thomas 
and Aschetinus prior of Leicester, who found him whiling away 
the hours of convalescence in a gay courtier's garb over a game of 
chess, and frankly avowed his dissatisfaction at the sight of such 
frivolity in a dignitary of the church " already archdeacon of 
Canterbury, dean of Hastings, provost of Beverley, canon of more 
than one church, entrusted with the care of the vacant arch- 
bishopric (procurator etiam archiepiscopatus), and marked out by 
court gossip as the coming archbishop." Thomas replied that he 
knew three poor priests in England whose promotion to the 
primacy he would welcome sooner than his own. The date of 
this conversation is fixed by the allusion to the vacant see of 
Canterbury in Thomas' charge. It must have taken place after 
Theobald's death in April 1161. 


come with his archdeaconry), and a prebend or two 
at Hastings 1 (the gift of the count of Eu), in 
addition to the secular preferment bestowed upon 
him by the king. But, pluralist as he was, Thomas 
did not forget his duty to the Church. It was at the 
suggestion of the chancellor that the king found 
honest occupants without delay for vacant sees and 
abbeys, instead of retaining " the inheritance of the 
Crucified " for the benefit of his own royal treasury, 
as he did later in his reign 2 ; visited, and at his own 
cost completed and endowed, the abbey church at 
Merton 3 ; and infused fresh blood into the Church of 
England by recalling from France famous English 
monks and scholars and finding them preferment at 
home. Robert of Melun was installed as bishop of 
Hereford 4 , and William, a monk of S. Martin des 

1 Fitzst. iii. 20: donationem praebendarum Hastinges a comite 
Augensi. The prior of Leicester addresses Thomas as decanus 
Hastingiae (iii. 26). Freeman suggests that he may have been 
dean with the nomination of the prebendaries also entrusted to 
him. Eobertson (Becket, p. 30) remarks that Hastings was a 
royal chapel with a college of secular canons attached (Dugdale, 
Monasticon, vi. 1470). 

2 Fitzst. iii. 23 : ut fisco suo patrimonia crucifixi inferrentur. 

3 Cp. Ch. I. of this essay for Thomas' connexion with Merton, 
the scene of his early school-days. The Pipe Bolls of the 2nd and 
4th years of Henry II. contain several royal grants or exemptions 
conferred upon the canonici de Meritona. 

* Fitzst. iii. 23. Eobert may have been invited to England 
while Thomas was chancellor, but he was not promoted to the see 
of Hereford till 1163, after it was vacated by Foliot's translation 
to London. Herbert of Bosham (iii. 260, 305) says that Kobert 
was both ordained to the priesthood and consecrated by Thomas 
the archbishop. Cp. Ch. I. of this essay on Robert's possible 
connexion with Thomas during his student days at Paris. 


Champs, as abbot of Ramsey 1 . All this Fitzstephen 
attributes to the judicious influence of the chancellor. 
It is also a significant fact that in each of the three The 

instances which Fitzstephen gives of the chancellor's cha _eUr 
11( T T T > T fl friend at 

interposition to break the force of the king s dis- court. 

pleasure, the sufferer reprieved was an ecclesiastic. 
Nicolas archdeacon of London had incurred the 
king's anger for some unknown reason. His family 
were driven from hearth and home, and his house 
confiscated by royal command. But Thomas pleaded 
his cause, and the king yielded to his entreaties. A 
still more notorious instance occurred in Normandy 
in July 1160. The kings of England and France 
had met at Neufmarche in conference with the 
Norman and French clergy, to decide between the 
claims of the rival popes Octavian and Alexander. 
Unfortunately first Gilo archdeacon of Rouen, acting 
on behalf of his uncle Hugh archbishop of Rouen, 
and after him the bishop of Le Mans, had anticipated 
the verdict of the conference by giving their allegi- 
ance at once to the nuncios of Alexander. Henry, 
infuriated by their independent action, ordered the 
immediate destruction of the archdeacon's house; 
but Thomas persuaded him to countermand the 
order. The bishop's case was more serious. Henry 

1 Fitzst. iii. 23. Bobert de Monte gives 1161 as the date of 
William's promotion to Eamsey. One other instance of the 
chancellor's patronage is preserved in an insertion in the Quadri- 
logus (perhaps due to its compiler, the monk Elias of Evesham), 
which states that one of the commissioners who fetched the 
pallium for Thomas after his consecration Adam abbot of 
Evesham owed his abbacy to the chancellor (Robertson's note, 
Materials, iii. 189). 


in his rage would not listen to reason, and the 
chancellor saw that it was useless to attempt to 
calm his violence at once. The king's marshals had 
already sacked the prelate's hostelry at Neufmarche, 
and turned him adrift in disgrace, and other 
messengers from Henry, armed with a writ that he 
had brandished in the face of his awe-stricken 
court, were on their way to Le Mans to raze the 
bishop's palace to the ground ; but the chancellor 
was equal to the emergency. His only hope was to 
gain time, and he gave the messengers secret in- 
structions to spend four days on the journey instead 
of two. The next day he sent the bishops to 
intercede with the king for their brother prelate-; 
but they pleaded in vain, and the chancellor himself 
fared no better. Undaunted by his repulse he went 
again the following day, and at last the king yielded, 
but not until he thought that time enough had 
elapsed for his officers to complete their work. The 
chancellor did not lose a moment. He despatched a 
messenger of his own with the king's counter-orders, 
and warned him, as he valued his master's friendship, 
to rest neither day nor night till he came to Le 
Mans. The chancellor's plan had succeeded. His 
messenger reached Le Mans just in time ; the king's 
writ had been handed to the city authorities that 
morning, but the bishop's palace- was intact ; and the 
king was honestly grateful afterwards for the stratagem 
that had robbed him of his vengeance and saved him 
in spite of himself from a deed of wild injustice 1 . 

1 Fitzst. iii. 26-28. The date of the conference is given by 
Robert de Monte, A.D. 1160. 


One other instance of the chancellor's inter- 
cession on behalf of his brother clergy remains to be 
noticed before returning to the question of his 
patronage. John of Salisbury had for a time in- 
curred the king's displeasure, and made use of the 
chancellor's friendship to reinstate himself in Henry's 
favour. He forwarded to the chancellor letters of 
recommendation from his master the archbishop of 
Canterbury and from his friend the Pope, and begged 
the chancellor to exert his influence, which was the 
one thing wanted to give them their full weight 
with the king 1 . John also wrote to Ernulf, the 
chancellor's secretary, explaining that he was afraid 
that without a monitor at his side the busy chan- 
cellor might not find time to plead a friend's cause, 
and asking him first to urge the chancellor to lay 
the case before the king, and then to write as soon 
as possible and tell him how the king received the 
letters from the Pope and the archbishop and the 
plea which he expected the chancellor to put forward 
on his behalf. We do not know the actual result of 
the intercession; but these' two letters are at least 
a proof that the chancellor was recognised by his 
brother clergy as "a friend in deed in time of need 2 ," 
upon whose personal sympathy and support they 
could rely, in cases of individual distress, what- 

1 Job. S. ad Thomam regis cancellarium, Ep. 6 (Materials, v. 

2 Job. S. ad magistrum Ernulfum, Ep. 5 (Materials, v. 7). 
This Ernulf remained secretary to Thomas after his consecration, 
and conveyed the seal to the king, when his master resigned the 


ever attitude he took up towards the Church as a 

To return to questions of ecclesiastical administra- 
tion, John of Salisbury was not always quite so sure 
of the chancellor's principles at the time as Fitz- 
stephen was when he wrote his biography years after- 
See of wards. The letter which John wrote to Thomas in 
Theobald's name, asking him to exert his influence 
in the nomination of a new bishop of Exeter, casts 
just a shade of suspicion upon the chancellor's 
integrity in the matter of church revenues. Robert 
Warelwast bishop of Exeter died in 1160, and the 
vacant see was not immediately filled. The king 
had already favoured the suit of Robert Fitzharding, 
a local baron, on behalf of an illiterate and inefficient 
candidate for the see, and had written to archbishop 
Theobald in the man's interest ; while some persons 
had even gone so far as to intrude upon the bed- 
ridden primate on the same errand. The canons of 
Exeter, however, had rejected the nomination; and 
Theobald now put forward Bartholomew archdeacon 
of Exeter without Bartholomew's knowledge, John 
of Salisbury is careful to state as a candidate for 
the king's approval. John was doubtful of the 
result. There was a rumour afloat, he writes, that 
the king had granted the revenues of three vacant 
bishoprics to swell the chancellor's income 1 . Still 
Theobald relied upon his patronage. If he were 

1 Job. S. Ep. 9 (v. 14) : fama est apud nos quod trium 
vacantium episcopatuum reditus ad liberationem vestram vobis 
dominus rex concesserit. Ducange gives liberation salary. The 
word occurs frequently with that meaning in the Pipe Bolls. 


only willing to speak, a word to the king would 
suffice ; his good services to the Church in similar 
cases at Lincoln, York and elsewhere were signal 
proofs of his influence. Theobald was hoping for a 
speedy decision, but almost against hope, it seems ; 
for John concludes with a warning that if the arch- 
bishop's petition were to be postponed until the 
king's arrival in England, he would feel that king 
and chancellor alike were merely waiting for his 
death. The aged primate was spared that pang of 
disappointment, though he did not live to consecrate 
his friend. We learn from other sources that Bar- 
tholomew was consecrated bishop of Exeter, just 
after Theobald's death in April 1161, by Walter 
bishop of Rochester in accordance with his brother's 
dying request 1 . 

One other incident of the chancellor's ecclesi- See f 

. . . i 1 London. 

astical administration is recorded in an extant letter 

from Foliot to the king. The see of London was 
thrown upon the chancellor's hands by the helpless- 
ness of its bishop, Richard de Belmeis, who broke 
down under an attack of paralysis some time before 
his death in May 1162 2 . Thomas tried to provide 
for the administration of the see by a stroke of 
economy which would meet the spiritual require- 

1 R. Diceto, i. 304 (ed. Stubbs). Bartholomew after his 
election went into Normandy to do homage to the king for 
the temporalities of his see, and returned only to find Theobald 

2 R. Diceto, i. 304, 306 (ed. Stubbs). Robertson, in a note on 
p. 15, vol. v., gives 1161 as the date of Richard's death, apparently 
by a slip of the pen, for in a note on p. 23 he mentions that 
Richard survived Theobald by a year. 


ments of the diocese and at the same time turn its 
misfortune into a source of profit for the king's 
treasury. In other words he did his best to serve 
two masters, and discharge his duty to the king 
without forgetting his duty to the Church. He 
asked Gilbert Foliot, then bishop of Hereford, after- 
wards, as bishop of London, his bitterest enemy, though 
now apparently they were on terms of friendship to 
take charge of the disabled see and pay the expenses 
of the bishop's household out of its revenues, re- 
serving the rest for the Crown, to be expended at the 
royal pleasure 1 . 

Whether Foliot suspected the chancellor's in- 
tentions with regard to the revenues of the see 
or only dreaded the strain of the responsibilities 
which its administration would add to the cares 
of his own diocese of Hereford, is an open question. 
He wrote to the king and declined the honour in 
vague terms. It would be a dangerous task, he said, 
and a grievous burden on his soul, and he implored 
the king to leave him free to serve God with 
greater devotion and intercede for him with a heart 
that would be the purer for its release from such a 

1 Foliot to Henry, Ep. 10 (v. 15, 16) : sollicitat me dominus 
cancellarius ut curam Londoniensis episcopatus suscipiam et ex 
parte redituum episcopatus episcopnm ipsum et domum ejus 
exhibeam, reliquum vero domino meo regi, prout sibi spiritus 
Dei suggesserit, erogandum conservem. It is immaterial whether 
sibi refers grammatically to cancellarius or regi: practically the 
result is the same. The chancellor was entrusted with the 
revenues of vacant sees to be administered on behalf of the king ; 
and the revenues of the see of London would pass through his 
hands as the king's agent. 


weight of care 1 . Eventually Foliot and the bishop 
of Lincoln with great difficulty induced Hugh dean 
of London and Nicolas the archdeacon to undertake 
the responsibility of managing the affairs of their 
helpless bishop, who was still lingering out his days. 
Their reluctance was more than justified, for in less 
than twelve months Foliot had to appeal to the new 
archbishop of Canterbury on their behalf against the 
persistence of the late bishop's creditors 2 . 

1 Father Morris (S. Thomas Becket, pp. 41, 42) speaks of the 
see as already vacated by the death of its bishop, and takes 
the chancellor's proposal to be an offer of the see, refused by 
Foliot "in consequence of the disgraceful condition annexed to 
the offer of the translation." This view he supports by taking 
the words episcopum ipsum et domum ejus exhibeam to mean 
"maintain myself and my household as its bishop." He after- 
wards mentions with approval the explanation that Foliot was 
only asked to administer the see during its vacancy, regarding 
this as a less reprehensible proposal, amounting merely to a 
retention of a part of what the king usually confiscated in toto ; 
and suggests that ' ' S. Thomas, who as we know used his influence 
with the king to prevent long vacancies, may in this instance 
have been able to gain nothing more liberal to the church than 
the compromise here offered." But Foliot's "evident indignation 
at the offer " and his subsequent translation to the see compelled 
the learned Jesuit to incline reluctantly in favour of the former 
view. That view however is untenable, for two reasons: (1) 
the words episcopum et domum suam Jideliter exhibere are 
used in a subsequent letter in reference to the trusteeship of 
Hugh and Nicolas. They cannot therefore mean " to maintain 
oneself as bishop." (2) Richard was still alive when the bishops 
of Hereford and Lincoln forced the administration of his affairs 
upon the dean and the archdeacon. The see was therefore 
not vacant at the time of the chancellor's offer to Foliot. 

2 Foliot, Ep. 15 (v. 23, 24), addressed T. Cantuariensi, i.e. 
Thomas, for the bishop of London, who is mentioned as dead, 
survived Theobald by a year. 


(3) Ecde- The attitude which Thomas the chancellor took 
jurisdic- U P towards the rival claims of royal and ecclesiastical 
turn. jurisdiction is clearly illustrated by the part which 
he played in the long litigation between the bishop 
of Chichester and the abbot of Battle. The trial of 
1157 has been already described in outline, and it 
will be sufficient here to recall Thomas' share in that 
trial and in the previous stages of the dispute* 
Early in 1155 the abbot obtained the king's consent 
to the confirmation of his privileges; but at the 
instigation of the bishop Theobald remonstrated 
. with the king, and persuaded him to withhold his 
seal from the abbey charter until the rights of 
Chichester and Canterbury obtained what he con- 
sidered due recognition. The abbot lost no time in 
procuring once more the royal order for the con- 
firmation of the charter ; and, in spite of an urgent 
remonstrance from the bishop, the king instructed 
the chancellor to affix the royal seal to the charter, 
and required the bishop, the abbot and the chancellor 
to meet in conference before the archbishop and 
revise any clauses that needed revision. If they 
separated without coming to an agreement, the 
charter was to be kept by the chancellor in the royal 
chapel until the king should decide what was to be 
done. The persons interested met at Lambeth. The 
charter of William I. was read out as the model of 
all the subsequent charters, which were practically 
mere confirmations of the original grant ; and the 
clause declaring the abbot's exemption from epi- 
scopal jurisdiction gave rise to a fierce discussion. 
Some objected to it as contrary to the principles of 


canon law, others as inconsistent with the rights and 
dignities of Canterbury. Some loudly asserted that 
the clause was too sweeping; others as violently 
enforced the opposite view 1 . The bishop required 
the excision of the clause, as it was not signed by 
any of his predecessors in the see of Chichester ; and 
the archbishop supported his demand. The abbot 
argued calmly on rational grounds, but in vain ; his 
opponents still clamoured for their point. At last the 
chancellor ended the dispute abruptly by removing 
the charter into the royal chapel in compliance with 
the king's previous instructions. The bishop was 
happy, for he felt sure that the abbot and his church 
had lost the royal sanction to their charter. But 
the abbot persevered, and, once more procuring the 
king's consent to its confirmation, returned this time 
in triumph to his abbey with the precious document 
in his possession. 

Such briefly is the narrative of the Abbey 
Chronicle. At the trial of 1157 the bishop of 
Chichester referred in a tone of complaint to the 
abbot's conduct at this court of revision in 1155. 
The clause, he said, which infringed upon the rights 
of Chichester and Canterbury the very clause which 
the conference in accordance with the king's instruc- 
tions was to revise and modify, if necessary had 
after due consideration been pronounced untenable 
on the ground of its sweeping and arbitrary charac- 
ter; and yet the abbot, ignoring this authoritative 

1 Chron. Monast. de Bella (Wilkins, i. 428, 429): nonnullis 
nimium clamantibus hoc verbum peremptorium esse; multis 
etiam hoc aliter objurgando interpretantibus. 


expression of opinion, had given vent to his indig- 
nation and assailed him with marked insolence, not 
only on that occasion, but subsequently in the 
chapter-house itself at Chichester 1 . The bishop, it 
will be noticed, regarded the archbishop's assent to 
his objection as settling the question in his favour, 
and practically annulling the provisions of the 
charter. But the chancellor in his speech on behalf 
of the abbot took a very different view of the relative 
weight of a bishop's complaint supported by an 
archbishop's judgment and an old royal charter with 
the present king's seal recently affixed in confirmation 
of its contents. The abbot, he says, was acting in 
accordance with the king's instructions. He had 
taken his stand upon a perfectly legitimate ground, 
namely, the fact that the privileges denounced as 
arbitrary by the bishop originated from a royal 
grant, and as a matter of fact his defence, far from 
being an abusive attack upon the bishop, had been 
based on principles of sound reason 2 . 

1 Chron. de Bella (Materials, iv. 249) : the bishop's speech to 
the king : praecepit igitur vestra dementia quatenus coram 
archiepiscopo ego et abbas cum cancellario vestro domino Thoma 
conveniremus, ibique lecta abbatis charta consilio archiepiscopi 
ea quae corrigenda erant (ea scilicet quae contra dignitates 
praedictarum ecclesiarum, Cantuariensis scilicet et Cicestrensis 
exsistebant) correcta, unusquisque quae sui juris esse videntur, 
adquisisse gauderet. Convenimus ibi. Lecta igitur coram 
assistentibus carta abbatis, ea quae contra dignitates Cantu- 
ariensis ecclesiae et Cicestrensis erant, justa consideratione 
peremptoria esse praecepta sunt. Abbas ira commotus multis me 
ibidem et maximis aggressus est injuriis. Nee solum duntaxat 
tune, sed anno etiam praesenti Cicestriam veniens capitulum 
nostrum cum nimia nimis arrogantia intravit, &c. 

2 Chron. de Bella (iv. 253) : quas (dignitates, i. e. the privileges 


The chancellor's attitude at the Lambeth con- 
ference of 1155 was marked out for him by his 
position as the representative of the Crown. His 
contribution to the debate is not recorded ; perhaps 
he was little more than a keen spectator ; but his 
withdrawal with the abbey charter after the autho- 
rity of the archbishop had been thrown solidly on 
the side of the bishop against the abbot is a clear 
indication that as a minister of the Crown he^ was 
prepared to uphold the prerogative of the Crown to 
grant or confirm ecclesiastical privileges indepen- 
dently of the ecclesiastical powers. This view of his 
attitude is confirmed by his action throughout the 
great trial of 1157. When the bishop waxed eloquent 
on the supremacy of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, 
the chancellor lost no time in following up the king's 
protest with a pointed reminder of his own. " You 
are disloyal to my lord the king, to whom you have 
taken the oath of allegiance, as all men know." 
When the abbot withdrew with his friends to de- 
liberate in private, it was Thomas the chancellor 
who was entrusted with the delivery of the defence 
thus prepared. Theobald, significantly enough, was 
not among this chosen circle of friends and parti- 
sans. His sympathy and support as the champion 
of episcopal rights were of course given to the 

The evidence of the Chronicle of Battle seems 

of the abbey) etiam praecepto domini regis coram domino nostro 
archiepiscopo Cantuariensi, non vobis pessima ingerendo, sed 
ratione vigenti easdem a vobis peremptorias judicatas defendendo, 
ut regales nobis audicntibus retinere cupiebat. 

R. 12 


unmistakable 1 . On the one hand- was the Crown 
for it was a royal charter that was at stake , on 
the other hand the representatives of episcopal 
jurisdiction, with a papal brief at their back ; and 
Thomas sided unhesitatingly with the king against 
the pretensions of the papal supremacy which he 
had once done his best in the service of Theobald to 
enforce as the final authority in the ecclesiastical 
affairs of England. The only difficulty in the way 
of accepting the evidence of the Chronicle is the fact 
that Thomas himself took a very different view of 
this trial afterwards when he was archbishop. In a 
letter written to Pope Alexander in 1 168 the exiled 
primate, bent on clearing himself from the charge 
that he was himself responsible for the evils that 
troubled his native land and Church, enumerates the 
instances of royal oppression that had taken place be- 
fore he came to the archiepiscopal throne, and among 
them he ranks the verdict of the king and council at 
Colchester in 1157. He condemns it as an act of 
coercion which showed how futile the claims of 
" apostolic " jurisdiction were in conflict with a self- 
willed monarch and a subservient court 2 . This 

1 The impression which the chancellor's action left upon the 
friends of the abbey comes out clearly in the reference made in 
the Chronicle to his promotion to the primacy (Materials, iv. 256) : 
Thomas... quern superior edidit narratio cum abbate Walterio 
adversus Cicestrensem episcopum Hilarium viriliter stetisse, seque 
pro defensione libertatis ecclesiasticae S. Martini de Bello advoca- 
tum exhibuisse. 

2 Thomas, Ep. i. 54, Giles ; Materials, iv. 244 : sed et 
Cicestrensis episcopus quid profuit adversus abbatem de Bello? 
qui privileges apostolicis fretus, cum ea nominasset in curia, 


letter has been made the basis of an attempt to 
prove in spite of the Chronicle of Battle that Thomas 
must have taken the ecclesiastical side in the trial of 
1157 1 . But after all the letter only proves that 
Thomas the archbishop ignored or repudiated the 
action of Thomas the chancellor 2 . Circumstances 
had changed, and Thomas had changed with them. 
Even Thomas' own comment eleven years later 
can scarcely outweigh the evidence of the Abbey 
Chronicle. Whatever his attitude was in 1168, he 
had ranged himself in 1157 on the side of his master 
the king against his old friend and master the arch- 

One other aspect of the question has yet to be (4) The 
considered, and that is the archbishop's own view of "^ ^ op 
his archdeacon's conduct as chancellor. The story is arc ^- 
soon told. It is a tale of bitter disappointment, a 

et abbatem denuntiasset excommunicatum, eidem incontinent! 
coram omnibus communicare compulsns est sine absolutione et 
eum recipere in osculo pacis. Sic enim placuit regi et curiae 
quae ei in nullo contradicere audebat. Privilegia apostolica may 
cover both the episcopal rights and the papal brief. Probably it 
refers specially to the latter. Apostolicus in mediaeval literature 
usually means papal, cp. mandatum apostolicum, auctoritas 
apostolica, aures apostolicae ( = the Pope's ears), all of which 
expressions occur in this same Chronicon de Bello. 

1 R. H. Froude, Remains, iv. 577. It was Froude's aim to 
reestablish the reputation of Thomas by disproving the prevalent 
idea of an absolute contrast between the chancellor and the arch- 
bishop in life and conduct. 

2 Robertson, Becket, Appendix vii. p. 326: Thomas "seems 
to have fancied that in exchanging the chancellorship for the 
primacy he had not only been released from all obligations as to 
money, but had got rid of his former self." Freeman practically 
endorses this view (Contemp. Review, vol. 32, p. 486, note). 



tale of promises unfulfilled and affection unrequited. 
It was to Theobald mainly that Thomas owed his 
training and experience, ecclesiastical, legal and 
political, and his first footing on the ladder of 
promotion in Church and state. Theobald naturally 
looked for some return. He relied on Thomas the 
archdeacon, his adopted son and, as he fondly hoped, 
his successor on the throne of Canterbury, to lift 
from his shoulders something of the care of all the 
churches which came upon him daily. He relied on 
Thomas the chancellor to maintain the traditional 
rights and privileges of the Church amid the dangers 
with which he was himself too old and weak to 
grapple. Both expectations were doomed to dis- 
appointment. The duties of the archdeacon were 
neglected for the duties of the chancellor. The 
interests of the archbishop were postponed to the 
interests of the king. Already Theobald and Thomas 
had come twice into collision. The chancellor had 
at least consented to the exaction of a scutage 
which the primate condemned ; and in the Battle 
Abbey case they had met as the representatives of 
the opposing claims of Church and king. The 
correspondence which passed a year or two later 
between the archbishop and his faithful secretary 
on the one side and the king and his chancellor on 
the other shows how deeply the iron had entered 
into the old man's soul. He writes in sorrow to his 
archdeacon, then absent with the king in Normandy: 
" You have now been recalled again and again to 
your post, you who ought to have returned at the 
first summons of your old and ailing father. Indeed 


it is to be feared that the Lord may punish your 
delay, if you still turn a deaf ear to my appeal, 
forgetful of all my kindness and regardless of the 
father whom you ought to have borne upon your 
shoulders in his sickness. There would have been 
no excuse for you, you would have well nigh merited 
my curse, if it were not that my lord the king 
excused your absence on the pretext of his own 
necessity. But as I put the public interests of the 
king's business before all private interests, I have 
allowed his will, which I have always preferred 
before my own where it was possible and right, to 
overrule my command to you on this condition only, 
that as soon as you can obtain his consent you no 
longer delay your return to my side. I make this 
concession for the present out of regard for your 
welfare as much as his wish, because I am afraid of 
the risk you may run if you should offend him by 
returning home. For if you incur the loss of his 
favour for my sake, I fear you could not regain it by 
any efforts of mine 1 ." At the same time, conscious 
of his approaching end, Theobald wrote more than 
once to the king, and pleaded piteously for a glimpse 
of his face, "the face of the Lord's anointed," once 
more in England, or at least for a visit from the 
archdeacon, " his first and only counsellor," as soon 
as the king could spare him 2 . Still Thomas did not 

1 Theobald 'ad archidiaconum suum,' Ep. 8 (Materials, v. 11). 
The earlier editions have the initial B. before archidiaconum, but 
the contents of the letter are only applicable to Thomas, and 
it must have been attributed to his predecessor Roger (archdeacon 
of Canterbury, 1147-1154) by mistake (Robertson, v. 11 n.). 

2 Joh. S. Ep. 90 (Giles, i. 93) : qui (Thomas) nobis unicus est 
et consilii nostri primus. 


come. At last John of Salisbury, the trusty clerk 
who tended the helpless primate to the last and bore 
the burdens of the see in his master's stead 1 , wrote 
a letter to Thomas which proves how seriously the 
archbishop's affection for his archdeacon was strained 
by his apparently wilful absence. John began by 
explaining that he had already in compliance with 
the chancellor's suggestion written letters in the 
primate's name to the king and to Thomas, recalling 
the chancellor to his archdeaconry on pain of ex- 
communication and forfeiture of his ecclesiastical 
income 2 ; but the king's plea that he could not spare 

1 Job. S. Metalogicus (dedicated to Thomas), iv. 42 (ed. Giles) : 
siquidem pater meus et dominus, immo et tuus, venerabilis 
Theobaldus Cantuariensis archiepiscopus in aegritudinem incidit, 
ut incertum sit quid sperare, quid timere oporteat. Negotiis more 
solito superesse non potest : injunxitque mini provinciam duram 
et importabile onus imposuit, omnium ecclesiarum sollicitu- 

2 Job. S. ad Thomam Angliae cancellarium, Ep. 9 (v. 13, 14) : 
Juxta mandatum dilectionis vestrae, litteras domini mei ad 
dominum regem et vos sub ea austeritate conceperam ut vobis 
redeundi festinata necessitas indiceretur nisi crimen inobedientiae 
malletis incurrere et cum poena anathematis dispendium bono- 
rum quae a Cantuariensi ecclesia habetis, sustinere. Lord 
Campbell (Lives of the Chancellors, i. 68) takes this threat in 
earnest and places it at the time of the scutage of 1159. " Upon 
this the heads of the church uttered the most violent invectives 
against him. Foliot, bishop of London, publicly accused him of 
plunging a sword into the bosom of his mother, the church ; and 
archbishop Theobald his former patron threatened to excommuni- 
cate him." This is a double inaccuracy. Foliot's remonstrance 
first appears in his pamphlet of 1166, seven years after the great 
scutage; and Theobald's threat was a suggestion of the chancellor's 
own in 1160. Possibly however Lord Campbell was thinking of 
the excommunication on pain of which Theobald had forbidden 
the exaction of auxllia in his diocese (v. supr. p. 162 ; see his letter 


his chancellor till peace was firmly established in 
France had induced Theobald to countermand the 
letters. Still Theobald was perplexed to reconcile 
the contradiction between the statements and re- 
quests of king and chancellor with all that he heard 
of their unanimity from other sources of foreign 
news; for this very threat of deprivation had been 
suggested by Thomas himself as a way of inducing 
the king to release him. Theobald was half-inclined 
to suspect that the king and the chancellor were in 
collusion ; but John fancied that he could understand 
the difficulties of his friend's position, and thought 
better of his sincerity. Still even John confessed 
that he was growing more and more anxious as 
Theobald's strength sank, and after pleading for the 
speedy appointment of Bartholomew to the see of 
Exeter for the sake of the dying archbishop, he 
ended his letter with an earnest appeal to the truant 
archdeacon to come home at all costs before his 
master's death. Still Thomas did not come 1 . He 

to Thomas, Materials, v. 9, 10, Ep. 7). Father Morris, while right 
in correcting Lord Campbell's mistake (note C, p. 529), is surely 
wrong himself in calling this excommunication "a sportive 
threat." The dying primate was in no mood to jest. The threat 
was perhaps not meant eventually to be carried out, but it was 
prepared sternly enough as the last chance of moving the king, 
who had turned a deaf ear to every gentler call. 

Strange to say, in the text of his book, Father Morris (like 
Dean Hook, Archbishops, Life of Theobald) takes the threat 
seriously: "They had even thought of forcing S. Thomas to 
return by threat of censures. But they had been induced to be 

patient by the report of the perfect unanimity between 

the king and the chancellor" (Morris, p. 59). 

1 Miss Norgate (England under the Angevin Kings, i. 506) 


had been set to serve two masters; and when the 
inevitable crisis came he held to the one and de- 
spised the other. His affection for his old patron 
was not strong enough to outweigh the attractions 
of foreign diplomacy and the danger of the royal 
displeasure. Thomas procured the appointment of 
Bartholomew to Exeter ; but he stayed with the king, 
and Theobald died without seeing his archdeacon. 



(Battle Abbey Chronicle). 

The traditional rendering of the word peremptorius 
in modern versions of the Battle Abbey case is 'frivo- 
lous' This translation occurs first in a note on p. 101 
of the Latin text of the Chronicon de Bello (published 
by the Anglia Christiana Society in 1846) where the 
meaning there given is said to be derived from late 
Latin writers. It was embodied in Mr Lower's transla- 
tion of the Chronicle in 1851 (pp. 83, 111), and thence 
found its way into the works of Dean Hook (Archbishops 
of Canterbury, ii. 372) and Father Morris (Life of 
S. Thomas, Note D, pp. 536, 545), who remarks that in 
giving this singular meaning to the word Mr Lower is 
borne out by a passage given by Ducange from the 

gives him the benefit of just the faintest doubt: "If he did go, 
it can only have been for a flying visit ; and there is no sign that 
he went at all." 


statutes of Liege of the year 1287 : 'cum judex viderit 
aliquam partium per exceptiones frivolas, dilatorias et 
peremptorias litem protrahere.' But this meaning of the 
word is by no means certain. I have in fact felt 
compelled to abandon the traditional interpretation, and 
substitute some such word as ' sweeping ' or ' arbi- 
trary ' ; and I take this opportunity of giving my 
reasons. The word peremptorius occurs in four passages 
in the Chronicon de Bello : 

(i) in the narrative of the conference at Lambeth 
in 1155 (p. 74, Angl. Christ. Soc.) : 'nonnullis nimium 
clamantibus hoc verbum peremptorium esse.' 

(ii) in the bishop's reference to this incident at the 
conference in his speech before the Curia in 1157 
(ib. p. 96 ; Materials, iv. 249), where he remarks as 
evidence in his favour that the disputed clauses 'justa 
consideratione peremptoria esse praecepta sunt.' (Mr 
Lower, p. 106, says " were perceived," as though he read 

(iii) in the king's indignant interruption of the 
bishop : "a strange thing this I hear, that the charters of 
the kings my predecessors, confirmed by the full autho- 
rity of the Crown of England, and by the testimony of 
our great men, should have been pronounced peremptory 
by you, my lord bishop" (p. 96, Angl. Christ. Soc., 'a vobis 
peremptorias esse judicatas'). There is no need to 
account for the king's interruption, as Father Morris 
does, by supposing that the chancellor had reported this 
expression to the king after the conference in 1155. He 
probably did report the proceedings to his master on 
that occasion ; but the bishop had just repeated the 
expression himself in the king's hearing. 

(iv) in the chancellor's subsequent reference to the 
same conference, where he asserts in reply to the bishop 


that the abbot in 1155 had confined himself to sound 
logic in defending as a royal grant the privileges con- 
demned by the bishop : ' ratione vigenti easdem a vobis 
peremptorias judicatas defendendo' (ib. 101; Materials, 
iv. 253). 

There are several points to be noticed in the passages 
quoted above : 

(1) the word peremptorius must have the same 
meaning in all four cases. 

(2) it refers not to the judicial verdict of a court 
but to an expression of party-feeling. 

(3) the king's remark makes it clear that it was the 
bishop and his partisans who applied the term peremp- 
torius to the clause securing the independence of the 

It is evident therefore that the usual technical signi- 
fication of the term, derived from Latin jurists ( = 'final, 
precluding further debate') will not stand. It is 
inconsistent with (iii) and (iv). But the rendering 
' frivolous ' will not meet the case ; it is too vague an 

Ducange (vol. v. p. 201) gives it no support. The 
passage quoted by Father Morris (p. 545) proves on 
inspection to be given by Ducange under the heading of 
the t. t. exceptio peremptoria. Ducange in fact suggests 
the reading non peremptorias, to avoid the contradiction 
between the two technical terms dilatorias and peremp- 
torias, and refers to the jurists in illustration of the 
technical meaning of the latter (Dig. 44. 1. 3 ; Gaius 4. 
117). Besides, if peremptorias, usually so strictly 
technical, is to be turned, as Father Morris turns it, 
into a synonym for frivolas, why should not the other 
technical term dilatorias be similarly treated ? I am 
inclined myself to translate the passage, 'unmeaning, 


frivolous pleas, whether intended to postpone or to 
preclude discussion of the question.' 

It remains to suggest some other meaning for these 
expressions in the Chronicon de Betto. The clause 
condemned as ' peremptory ' was a clause giving the 
abbot absolute exemption from the jurisdiction of the 
bishop of the diocese. The bishop and his supporters 
were indignant that this question should be regarded 
as settled once for all by an old royal charter which 
invested the abbot permanently with a freedom that 
was not qualified by any safeguard or restriction in the 
interests of the bishop or the archbishop. It was this 
absence of any saving clause that roused their indig- 
nation. I should therefore translate peremptorily by 
some such word as ' sweeping,' ' arbitrary, 1 a transitional 
meaning between the legal t. t. ' final,' ' decisive ' and 
the looser modern use of the word ' peremptory ' in the 
sense of 'autocratic.' 



(Father Morris, S. Thomas, pp. 47, 48 ; Note D, 

pp. 533-557). 

In the text of his life of S. Thomas of Canterbury 
(pp. 47, 48), Father Morris just alludes incidentally to 
the Battle Abbey case as an oft-quoted example of the 
chancellor's readiness to side with the king against the 
principles of ecclesiasticism, but rejects the evidence of 
the Chronicle as biassed and fragmentary, and refuses to 
allow it to modify the judgment which he formed of the 


chancellor's character from the other acts of his chan- 
cellorship. For this summary dismissal of the question 
he makes full atonement in a long appendix (Note D, 
pp. 533-557), in which he traces the history of the 
dispute from beginning to end as it is related in the 
Abbey Chronicle, and explains in detail his reasons for 
declining to join in the almost universal vote of censure 
against the chancellor's action in this famous suit. 

The learned Jesuit's case for S. Thomas may be 
analysed briefly as follows. 

I. The trustworthiness of the Abbey Chronicle as 
historical evidence is discredited 

(a) by the fragmentary shape in which the chan- 
cellor's speech has come down to us. The MSS. show 
unmistakable signs of erasure and correction. The 
chancellor's remonstrance with the bishop at the trial of 

1157 apparently ran thus in the original MS tis 

in dominum nostrum regem, cui fidem sacramentum 

As it now stands the second lacuna is filled thus : cui fidei 
sacramentum vos fecisse nulli dubium est. The addition 
is evidently written over an erasure. The word . ..tis has 
been completed into peccatis by the editor of the 
Chronicon de Bella (Anglia Christiana Society, 1846), 
but this is after all only a conjecture. 

(6) by the ex parte character of the Chronicle, 
written as it was by a monk of Battle Abbey, who 
would naturally take pains to represent the great 
chancellor as siding with the abbot against the bishop. 

(c) by the letter to Pope Alexander in 1163 in 
which Thomas the archbishop enumerates the discom- 
fiture of the bishop among the acts of oppression to 
which the Church had been compelled to submit before 
his own promotion to the see of Canterbury. "This 
does not read like the statement of the man who had 


taken the part ascribed to him by the chronicler of the 

II. Assuming however for the sake of argument 
that the chronicler's report of the trial is mainly correct, 
Father Morris puts forward one or two valuable sug- 
gestions by way of explaining the chancellor's real 
attitude towards the question at issue. 

(a) Pope Adrian in his letter of remonstrance to 
the abbot on his disloyalty to the bishop had referred to 
the profession of obedience which the abbot had made 
to the bishop. Apparently therefore the Pope was 
under the impression that the Abbey was not exempt, 
in which case alone could the abbot's refusal of obedience 
be made a ground of censure. As a matter of fact the 
original exemption had been sanctioned by archbishop 
Lanfranc and Stigand bishop of Chichester. 

(b) Battle Abbey was a dominica capella, and 
therefore had all the privileges of a royal chapel. 

(c) A founder was at liberty to impose any con- 
dition of his own authority at the time of foundation. 
" It was for the Church to choose whether she would 
accept the foundation so hampered ; and in this case the 
Church was a party to the conditions imposed in the 
Conqueror's charter." 

Father Morris is inclined therefore to regard the 
opposition of the bishop of Chichester and the evident 
sympathy which Theobald gave him as arising " not so 
much from zeal for ecclesiastical liberty as from jealousy 
of monastic exemption." He then proceeds to point out 

(1) the chancellor in his concluding speech in no 
way claimed the right to decide the matter by secular 

(2) the point of grievance emphasized by Thomas 


in his letter to Pope Alexander eleven years afterwards 
was not that the king had encroached upon a papal 
privilege by exempting an abbey from episcopal juris- 
diction, but that he had compelled the bishop to give 
the kiss of peace to an abbot whom he had excommuni- 
cated. As a matter of fact, the conclusion arrived at in 
this case in 1157, far from being repudiated by the 
Church, was sanctioned by archbishop Theobald, who 
confirmed the exemption of the Abbey, and afterwards 
by Pope Honorius and Pope Gregory, who recited with 
approval the recognition of the rights of the Abbey by 
bishop Hilary at Colchester in 1157. 

Father Morris has done good service in clearing up 
the precise point at issue and proving that the chancellor 
was acting in accordance with the technical rights of the 
case in upholding the royal charter. But still the fact 
remains if we may trust the Chronicle, that Thomas was 
quick to follow the king's lead in interrupting the bishop 
in the midst of his injudicious assertion of the supremacy 
of the spiritual power, even though the exact terms of 
the interruption cannot be with certainty restored, owing 
to the fragmentary condition of the manuscripts ; and it 
is difficult to avoid the suspicion that the chancellor's 
deliberate persistence in bringing home to the bishop's 
door the responsibility of having called in the papal 
intervention against a royal charter was prompted by 
the conviction that this was the surest way to bring 
down the king's anger upon the bishop and secure a 
verdict in favour of the abbot. 



THEOBALD died in April 1161, and for a whole 
year the see was left vacant. In May 1162 Thomas 
of London, archdeacon of Canterbury and chancellor 
of England, was elected archbishop on the king's 
nomination. His conduct at this crisis has been 
a veritable crux historicorum. The motive is the 
first thing to be examined in estimating the moral 
value of a man's actions, and it is usually the last 
thing to be determined with certainty, especially 
where different motives are at work in combination 
or in conflict, as is frequently the case. It is just 
this complexity of motive which makes the attitude 
of Thomas on this occasion so hard to understand ; 
and the problem is still further complicated by the 
discrepancy of the data at our disposal for its 
solution. The statements of Thomas and his friends 
are not easily reconciled with the statements of his 
opponents. In some case they have to be left in 
almost absolute contradiction. 

One thing is certain at the outset, and that is Henry's 
Henry's intention in placing Thomas on the archi- mtentwm - 


episcopal throne. The biographers are all agreed on 
this point, and their testimony is in accordance with 
all that we know from other sources of the general 
character of his early policy. It was his intention to 
rule the Church through the archbishop as he had 
ruled the baronage and the people through the 
chancellor 1 . The divided jurisdiction of Church and 
Crown which dated from the Conqueror was now 
seriously threatening the royal supremacy and the 
unity of the kingdom. A large section of the king's 
subjects was withdrawn from his control by the 
separate jurisdiction of the bishops and the primate 
over all who had received the orders of the Church, 
readers and acolytes as well as priests and deacons. 

1 Job. S. ii. 305 : quo totam facilius ecclesiam regeret. Fitzst. 
iii. 25: confidens quod sibi ad placitum et nuturu, ut cancellarius 
fecerat, archiepiscopus obsequeretur. Auct. Anon. i. iv. 14: 
credens itaque rex propositum suum adversus ecclesiam per eum 
potissimum impleri. Henry had also a secondary purpose in 
view which should not be overlooked. Theobald's services in 
promoting his accession and in governing the country during the 
interregnum of 1154 had apparently impressed him with the 
capacities of the primacy as a bulwark of the Crown ; at any rate 
more than one biographer credits Henry with the design of 
securing in Thomas a faithful guardian for his heirs in the event 
of his own death occurring early. Joh. S. ii. 305: si vero dies 
suos mors immatura praecideret, haeredibus suis tutorem fidelis- 
simum providebat. Cp. Gervase (Act. Pontif. Cant. s. v. Thomas), 
and Will. C. i. 6, where the two motives of dynastic and 
ecclesiastical policy both come out clearly. Thomas Saga (Rolls 
Series, i. 70) : "he trusted Thomas best of all men to aid his heirs 
to the throne, in case he himself should be no more. " The Saga 
avowedly attaches less importance to the other reason for the 
king's insistence, "in that he thought Thomas would be yielding 
to his will in the keeping of the laws and the kingly customs in 
the realm." 


The danger was twofold. The only penalties at the 
disposal of this spiritual jurisdiction fines, penance, 
imprisonment, and degradation were impotent to 
check crime within the Church. In fact the com- 
parative licence which they gave was rapidly con- 
verting the lower orders of the Church into a 
criminal class. The ecclesiastical jurisdiction was 
weak where it should be strong, in the coercive 
element of justice. But at the same time it was 
aggressive in its pretensions. As a spiritual power 
it claimed absolute independence and superiority in 
the face of the secular power, and it encroached 
upon the province of the king's jurisdiction by 
extending its power over the laity. The boundaries 
of canon law and common law were not yet sharply 
defined ; and questions of marriage and inheritance, 
the validity of oaths and contracts and the like, were 
appropriated by the Church courts. The commuta- 
tion of penance into fines made their procedure 
popular with the rich, and the merciful character of 
their punishments in comparison with those of the 
lay courts won the goodwill of the lower classes of 
the people. This state of things was intolerable to 
Henry. He had met with a striking case in the 
diocese of York in 1158, in which the extortions of 
clerical justice and the pretensions of clerical im- 
munity both stand out in vivid relief. The king 
was at York, and a citizen of Scarborough came 
before him with a grave complaint. A certain rural 
dean had extorted from him twenty-two shillings by 
bringing an unsupported charge of adultery against 
his wife, though a royal edict had ordered that no 
R. 13 


accusation should be entertained on the evidence of 
a single witness only. The king summoned the 
dean before him, and the case was investigated. 
The archbishop of York was present, and also the 
bishops of Lincoln and Durham, and John treasurer 
of York. The dean had been provided with a 
defence. The woman, he said, had been accused 
by two persons, a deacon and a layman. She denied 
the charge, and was permitted to choose her ordeal ; 
but her husband came forward and paid the arch- 
deacon twenty shillings as a bribe and the dean 
himself two shillings. The dean was unable to 
prove this statement, and the king insisted on his 
trial, remarking that the archdeacons and deans 
extorted more money from the people of the realm 
in this way than the king received as revenue. The 
king's barons went with the clergy to try the case. 
At last John the treasurer suggested that the money 
should be restored to the citizen, and the question of 
the dean's degradation submitted to his archbishop. 
This roused Richard de Luci. "What share then 
in the decision will you allot to my lord the king, 
whose authority the man has disobeyed ? " " Nothing," 
replied John ; " the man is a clerk." Richard re- 
fused to lend his sanction to such a proposal, 
and went back with the barons to the king. The 
clergy came in shortly with the proposal which 
John had made ; but the king angrily refused to 
recognise the validity of their sentence, and gave 
notice of an appeal to Theobald archbishop of 
Canterbury. The appeal however was not pro- 
secuted. The death of Geoffrey intervened in July 


1158, and Henry dropped the case and went off 
to Normandy 1 . 

None the less Henry was determined to remedy 
the evil; and the death of Theobald gave him his 
opportunity. He was bent on being king in fact as 
well as in name over the whole nation, bent on 
asserting his supremacy in all causes and over all 
persons, ecclesiastical and civil alike. The refractory 
barons had been compelled to submit to his au- 
thority; the administration of royal justice in the 
provinces had been set on a firm basis ; and the 
Church was now from the king's point of view the 
only insubordinate element in his kingdom. His 
early reforms had been carried out with the help, 
if not at the suggestion, of his trusty chancellor. 
Thomas' attitude real or assumed towards ecclesi- 
astical claims had been distinctly unsympathetic 2 ; 
and the king, convinced of his ability and devotion, 
thought that Thomas would prove as archbishop an 
invaluable instrument in securing ecclesiastical re- 
form. " Where the problem was to reconcile the 
rights of the clergy with the law of the land, it 
would be convenient, even essential, that the chan- 
cellorship and the primacy should be combined in 
the same person 3 ." 

1 Fitzst. iii. 44, 45. 

2 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 14, hints that the king was misled by 
Thomas' deliberate assumption of severity against the Church. 
Cp. Ch. VII. of this Essay (p. 155). 

3 Prof. Froude, Short Studies, iv. 33. In the original article 
in the Nineteenth Century for 1877 the passage quoted above was 
followed by the remark that Frederic Barbarossa "was finding 
the value of such a combination in Germany, where with the 



The king's intention is certain beyond a doubt. 
We have now to notice how his nomination was 
received first by Thomas himself, and afterwards 
by the chapter of Canterbury and the clergy of 

archbishop of Cologne for a chancellor of the empire he was 
carrying out an ecclesiastical revolution." The revolution was 
Mr. Froude's own addition ; the rest of his comment is a mutila- 
tion of the remark which Diceto makes in explanation of Henry's 
surprise and disappointment at Thomas' resignation of the seal 
(E. Diceto, i. 308, ed. Stubbs) : audierat namque quod Maguntinus 
archiepiscopus in Teutonica sub rege, quod Coloniensis archiepis- 
copus in Italia sub imperatore nomen sibi vendicent archicancel- 
larii. There were two chancellor-archbishops. Cp. Miss Norgate, 
England under the Angevin Kings, ii. 6. 

Freeman (Contemp. Review, vol. 32, pp. 494-496) admits 
that Henry probably had these " imperial models " in view, but 
points out that this fact does not make his design with regard to 
Thomas much less remarkable. There was as yet no precedent 
in England (1) for the promotion of a chancellor straight to the 
primacy. Ordinary bishoprics were frequently given to royal 
chancellors as the reward of secular services, but never the see of 
Canterbury, which was almost invariably filled out of the ranks of 
monasticism. (2) for the retention of the chancellorship by a bishop 
or archbishop. Up to this date it was considered below the 
dignity of a bishop to remain chancellor. The greatest of 
Thomas' predecessors in the chancellorship, Boger bishop of 
Salisbury, had resigned the lower position of chancellor to his 
son on his own promotion to the higher offices of bishop and 
justiciar. It was not until after the chancellorship had gained 
prestige and dignity in the hands of Thomas that it came to 
be retained by a bishop or an archbishop. This fact has an 
important bearing on Thomas' speedy resignation of the seal 
after his consecration. The king was certainly surprised and 
indignant ; he was so intent on having a chancellor-archbishop of 
his own like the emperor that he had procured a papal dispensa- 
tion to sanction the combination of the two offices (Garnier, ed. 
Hippeau, p. 29). But Thomas in resigning the chancellorship 
was only acting in accordance with precedent. 


(1) The circumstances of the king's offer are Thoma* 
described in detail by Herbert of Bosham, who says j e 

that he often heard the story from the lips of the offer of the 
exiled archbishop 1 . The death of Theobald after a 
primacy of more than twenty-two years aroused the 
keenest expectation and curiosity at court. Some 
hinted, others openly pointed at the chancellor as 
the coming archbishop 2 . The people were loud in 
their prophecies. But the king kept his own counsel, 
and took no steps beyond entrusting the vacant see, 
as usual, to the care of the chancellor. Thomas 
guessed the king's design, but held his peace. They 
were then in Normandy. Henry had resolved to 
send Thomas to England to deal with the incursions 
of the Welsh, and transact other affairs of state 3 . 
It was on this occasion that Thomas received the 
first intimation of the king's purpose. He had gone 
to take leave of the king at Falaise. Henry took 

1 Herb. iii. 180-182. 

2 Cp. the language attributed to the prior of Leicester in his 
interview with Thomas at Kouen: vos estis... procurator etiam 
archiepiscopatus, et, sicut rumor in curia frequens est, archiepis- 
copus eritis. Fitzst. iii. 26. 

3 Grim, ii. 366, says that Thomas was sent to England on 
more errands than one, but especially to secure the homage of the 
nobility for Henry the king's son, who was soon to be crowned as 
the future king. Auct. Anon. i. iv. 13 mentions with admiration 
his success in this matter, which, he says, was considered a 
difficult task even for a king himself to accomplish in person. 
B. de Diceto (A.D. 1162) records that in that year the bishops and 
abbots swore fealty to the young Henry by command of the king 
(mandate regis) ; " but Thomas the chancellor did homage to him 
before any one else, saving only his allegiance to the king as 
long as he should live and wish to remain at the head of the 


him aside, and revealed the secret of his mission to 
England. He was to be made archbishop of Canter- 
bury. Thomas by way of reply drew the king's 
attention with a jest to his gay costume, and con- 
trasted his own worldly appearance with the bearing 
of the grave monks of Canterbury over whom the 
king proposed to place him in authority. Then 
changing his tone he warned the king seriously that 
a rupture would be inevitable 1 . As archbishop he 
could not sanction the encroachments upon ecclesi- 
astical privilege which Henry, he knew, was medi- 
tating and had in fact begun 2 . His enemies besides 
would seize the first opportunity to alienate him 
from the king. 

Henry was not deterred, continues Herbert, by 
this affectionate warning. He next announced his 
intention publicly in the presence of Thomas and 
the rest of the commissioners bound for England ; 

1 Robertson (Becket, p. 38) suggests that the warning was 
given with a smile which robbed it of its force by casting a doubt 
upon its sincerity. But there is no indication of this in the text 
of Herbert's narrative. 

2 Herb. iii. 181 : novi quippe te nonnulla exacturum et etiam 
in ecclesiasticis te jam multa praesumere quae ego aequo animo 
sustinere non possem. According to the Icelandic life (Thomas 
Saga, i. 65), the chancellor advised the selection of some fitter 
person than himself: " And withal you have in your realm such 
laudable persons as that my fleshly looseness fareth low before 
their feet... I therefore pray, in all humbleness, that you go 
somewhere else." The writer adds, after recording Henry's 
charge to Richard de Luci, that "at the same time the king settled 
privily with the cardinal (Henry of Pisa) that he should give such 
aid to the affair that his own furtherance thereof should not 
be needed" (ib. pp. 67, 69). But there is no hint of this secret 
understanding in any of the other biographers. 


and turning to one of them, Richard de Luci, com- 
manded him to forward Thomas' advancement as 
loyally as he would exert himself in placing young 
Henry on the throne, if his father lay dead on his 

Herbert is the only biographer who has given 
the actual circumstances in full. But the other 
biographers are equally emphatic on the subject of 
Thomas' hesitation and reluctance. They all lay 
stress on the fact that he foresaw the certainty of a 
conflict with the king. Some of them suggest other 
reasons besides, the heavy responsibilities of the 
care of all the churches 1 , the danger from jealous 
enemies at court' 2 , the necessity of adopting a 
stricter manner of life as archbishop 3 . Only one 
writer speaks of him, and that incidentally, as 
casting an eager glance at the vacant primacy. 
William of Canterbury says that he was in a strait 
'twixt two 4 . He was anxious for the greater 
opportunities of meditation which the new life 
would bring, and yet he dreaded the very appear- 
ance of a grasping ambition. Whatever the meaning 
of Thomas' resistance was, it only made the king 
more determined ; and eventually the chancellor's 
"faint and lingering scruples 5 " were overcome by 
the arguments of a fellow ecclesiastic, Henry of 
Pisa, a Cistercian monk, cardinal and papal legate, 

1 Job. S. ii. 305. Will. C. i. 7. 

2 Job. S. ib. Will. C. ib. 

3 Auct. Anon. n. iv. 85. 

4 Will. C. i. 7. 

5 Milman, Latin Christianity, iii. 453. 


who had remained in Normandy after lending his 
sanction on behalf of the Pope to the marriage of 
the royal children Henry and Margaret in 1160. 
He urged Thomas in the interests of the Church as 
well as for his own spiritual benefit to accept the 
great opportunity now at his disposal 1 , and at last 
Thomas yielded to the legate's entreaties and the 
advice of his friends, and withdrew his opposition to 
the king's design. 

That is the story as told by the contemporary 
biographers. Two facts stand out clearly in their 
narrative. One is the fact that Thomas was sincerely 
reluctant ; the other is the fact that Thomas gave 
the king clear proof of his reluctance. Against the 
first of these statements we have to set the inevit- 
able contradiction of his rivals and opponents. One 
of the anonymous biographers admits that Thomas' 
election was opposed by some on the ground that he 
had forced his own way into the sacred eminence of 
the primacy 2 ; but he says that the accusation was 

1 Will. C. i. 8, Job. S. ii. 306, Auct. Anon. i. iv. 18, just state 
the bare fact of the cardinal's intervention. Auct. Anon. n. iv. 86 
gives the substance of his appeal to Thomas : ut munus tarn 
instanter oblatum pro Christi ecclesia non respueret, nee occasio- 
nem tarn honestam sperneret, qua liber ab humane, Dei deinceps 
vacare posset obsequio. Froude's unwarranted addition in the 
Nineteenth Century for 1877 (p. 562) to the effect that the 
cardinal also told Thomas that "he need not communicate 
convictions which would interfere with his appointment" is 
omitted in the reprint of the essay in his Short Studies (vol. iv. 
p. 34), possibly in consequence of its scathing exposure by Free- 
man (Contemp. Review, vol. 32, p. 493). 

2 Auct. Anon. n. iv. 85 : tarn sanctum dignitatis fastigium non 
horrens renuisse, sed ultroneus ascendisse. 


prompted by jealousy, and he only quotes it to give 
it a flat denial. Gilbert Foliot in his famous letter 
of remonstrance four years afterwards openly charged 
Thomas with having bought the chancellorship 
deliberately, according to the usual interpretation 
of the passage, as a stepping-stone to the primacy 1 . 
He certainly accused him in the same letter of 
indecent haste in securing the prize when the death 
of Theobald brought it within his reach. "You 
were waiting," wrote Foliot, "with a watchful eye 
for this event, and you lost no time in hurrying 
back from Normandy to England." This haste 
may be explained on other grounds ; we know that 
Thomas had urgent business of state to transact on 
this visit to England. But it is doubtful whether it 
was such a hasty proceeding. The chancellor was 
still at Rouen, convalescent after his illness, when 
the prior of Leicester addressed him as ' procurator 
archiepiscopatus ' ; and had he been as busy in his 
own behalf as Foliot hints, it is scarcely likely 

1 Foliot to Thomas, Ep. 225 (Materials, v. 523, 524) : vos 
certa licitatione proposita cancellariam illam dignitatem multis 
marcarum millibus obtinuisse, et aurae hujus impulsu in portum 
ecclesiae Cantuariensis illapsum ad ejus tandem sic regimen 
accessisse. The deliberate design upon the primacy from the 
outset is an inference which perhaps the language will scarcely 
justify. The words 'illapsum... accessisse' seem rather to imply 
that the course of events had brought Thomas within reach of the 
primacy; and perhaps Foliot is merely hinting that Thomas had 
made an unjustifiable use of the influence with the king afforded 
by a chancellorship which had itself been obtained by a trans- 
action that suited ill with his eventual promotion to a spiritual 
office, however permissible it might be regarded as a means of 
obtaining a secular office. 


that twelve months would have been allowed to 
elapse before his election 1 . 

The testimony of the biographers on this point 
is confirmed by a review of his previous conduct. 
The whole tenor of his life as chancellor had been 
the opposite of what might have been expected of 
an intending candidate for the sacred office to which 
Lanfranc and Anselm had bequeathed such a heritage 
of saintly tradition. Ordinary bishoprics might fall 
to worldly ecclesiastics as the reward of secular 
services to the state, but not the archbishopric of 
Canterbury; and though more than one primate 
had proved himself a statesman, it was not on the 
score of his statesmanship that he had been selected 
to occupy the primacy. Men still looked to the 
abbey or the monastery for a scholar or a saint to 
tread in the footsteps of the great Norman arch- 
bishops. But Thomas had taken no pains to con- 
ciliate the churchmen who would have a voice in 
his election. Worldly and secular in his outward 
bearing, his love of sport, his grandeur, his extrava- 
gance, and anti-ecclesiastical in his policy, he had 
done everything to alienate the men whose good- 

1 Dean Hook (Archbps. ii. 387) attributes the delay to the 
opposition of the English clergy; Froude (Nineteenth Century, 
1877) thinks it was caused by the reluctance of Thomas. It is 
quite possible that Milman is right (Latin Christianity, iii. 453) in 
supposing that Henry did not offer the primacy to Thomas until 
the end of the year. The chancellor was in charge of the 
temporalities of the see, and its revenues would go into the royal 
treasury, so that Henry would have an obvious motive in delaying 
the appointment of a new archbishop. 


will he should have striven to win if he had set his 
heart on filling the throne of Canterbury. 

His disinclination to accept the primacy, after 
all, was only natural. He was quite at home in the 
chancellorship. His military ardour, his diplomatic 
talent, his administrative powers, all had full scope 
in that office, and room was left for the display 
of the luxury and magnificence which he loved so 
dearly. But the change of position would necessitate 
a change of life. The pastimes of the court, the 
excitements of war, permissible in a deacon, not 
always foregone even by the bishops and papal 
legates of that age, were inconsistent with the ideal 
of the priesthood, still more of the primacy, which 
Thomas would feel bound to copy to the best of his 
ability from the life of his great prototype Anselm. 
It might involve, it was certain to involve a change 
in his relations with the king. The archbishop 
would consider himself called upon to oppose the 
royal will which it was the chancellor's duty and 
pleasure to obey ; and friendship might have to 
give place to enmity. Thomas may well have 
shrunk from the prospect. His biographers em- 
phatically say that he did shrink from it ; and 
there is no valid reason for rejecting their testi- 

There is no reason either why we should not 
believe the further statement that Thomas did give 
Henry full notice of his reluctance to accept the 
primacy, and full warning of the conflict that must 
ensue if he did accept it. Unless Herbert of Bosham 
is to be ruled out of court as a partial witness on a 


point of fact which he states on the direct authority 
of Thomas himself, we must admit that the warning 
was given. It has been pronounced " incredible that 
the king would have persevered in the appointment, 
if he had been made distinctly to understand what 
Becket meant to do," and that incredibility has been 
regarded as a sufficient ground for doubting Herbert's 
veracity 1 . But it is far more probable that the 
warning was given and disregarded. Perhaps Henry 
mistook it for " the decent resistance of an ambitious 
prelate 2 " ; perhaps, blinded by his attachment to 
Thomas and his implicit faith in Thomas' devotion 
to himself, he was content to risk all contingencies. 
Whatever the reason, he persisted in defiance of the 
warning ; and it was not repeated. The conscience 
of the nineteenth century might require a second 
warning where the first had fallen on an unheeding 
or mistaken ear, but the code of honour by which 
Thomas regulated his conduct like his contemporaries, 
laymen and clerics, in the twelfth century would be 
content with one plain intimation 3 . Thomas would 
have satisfied his conscience ; and Henry alone would 
now be responsible for the consequences of his ill- 

1 Froude, Short Studies, iv. 34. "Herbert of Bosham intro- 
duces a speech which Becket is supposed to have addressed to 
Henry, intimating that the king would find him a most determined 
antagonist." The italics are my own. In a foot-note to this 
passage Mr Froude has another fling at the devoted biographer. 
"Herbert considers his master's frankness on this occasion a 
miracle of magnanimity." So he does (Herb. iii. 181); but this 
comment need not damage the credit of the fact to which it is 

2 Milman, Lat. Christ, iii. 453. 

3 Freeman, Contemp. Review, vol. 32, p. 493. 


advised persistence. It is quite possible that Thomas 
having done all that his duty seemed to require 
began to " listen to the promptings of ambition 1 ." 
He may have reflected that perseverance in his 
refusal would probably drive the king to find a more 
compliant ecclesiastic elsewhere 2 ; and Thomas could 
ill brook to see the primacy of all England pass into 
other hands when it had once been placed within 
reach of his own. He may have dreaded the weight 
of the king's displeasure 3 , which might visit his 
obstinacy with loss of wealth or influence. We 
cannot tell what thoughts did or did not pass through 
his mind. We only know the result. Thomas let 
things take their course, and waited for the sequel 
"with the consistency and dignity of a man who 
knows not exactly what to wish ; of one who has 
been forced into an election in which he would not 
have volunteered to be a candidate 4 ," in the words 
of the faithful Herbert, 

" non honorem ambientis nee respuentis tamen." 
(2) The king's nomination had now to be con- The 

firmed by the voice of the Church 5 . The decision e }? cti n at 

J . Canter- 

lay primarily with the chapter of Canterbury, and bury. 

their choice was ratified by the clergy of the 

1 Hook, Archbps. ii. 386. 2 Froude, SJiort Studies, iv. 35. 

3 Auct. Anon. n. iv. 86: cui (regi) procul dubio necesse fuit 
obsequi, vel ipsum (Thomam) indubitato proscriptionis et odii 
subjacere discrimini. 

4 Hook, ib. 

5 Grim, ii. 366 : aliquamdiu differtur negotium donee a con- 
ventu consensum extorqueat, qui liberam ab antique solet habere 
vocem in electione pontificis; nam illo reclamante nulli regum 
licuit intrudere quemquam propria auctoritate. 


province. The conge d'elire was conveyed to the 
monks of Christ Church by a deputation from the 
king, consisting of three bishops, Bartholomew of 
Exeter, Hilary of Chichester, and Walter of Rochester, 
the justiciar Richard de Luci, and his brother Walter 
abbot of Battle 1 . The procedure is described at 
great length by one of the anonymous biographers 2 . 
The bishops began by greeting the chapter, and 
after enlarging upon the king's favour called on 
Richard to explain the king's intentions. The 
justiciar announced that the king was graciously 
pleased to allow full freedom of election, but he 
recommended them to fix their choice upon a person 
acceptable to the king, and hinted ominously at the 
dangers and difficulties that must otherwise beset 
the Church 3 . The prior retired, by permission of the 
bishops, with a few of the older and wiser monks ; 
but they found the responsibility of the choice too 
great, and came back to request the advice of the 
bishops and the justiciar, who were acquainted with 
the royal pleasure on which the election was felt to 
depend. The joint consultation ended in their 
choice falling upon the chancellor. The monks 

1 Gamier, pp. 16, 17 (ed. Hippeau). Auct. Anon. i. iv. 14-16, 
only mentions Exeter and Chichester. Grim, ii. 366 says there 
were three bishops; and the name of the third, Rochester, is 
supplied by Gervase, i. 169 (ed. Stubbs), who also mentions 
Chichester's old opponent, the abbot Walter. 

2 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 14-16, whose account is closely followed in 
the text of this Essay. 

3 Cp. Grim, ii. 366 : si talis eligatur qui regi non placeat, in 
schismate eritis et discordia, sub tali pastore dispersionem, non 
refugium habituri. 


indeed hesitated for a time, unwilling to elect an 
archbishop from the ranks of the secular clergy. 
Canterbury had been a monastic church from its 
foundation by S. Augustine, and all its archbishops 
but two had been regulars. But this technical 
objection was compensated by the personal merits 
of the chancellor, and eventually every voice was 
given in his favour 1 . 

The election was confirmed in Westminster Its cow 
Abbey. The king's commissioners summoned 
London by royal mandate all the bishops, abbots 
and priors of the province of Canterbury 2 , as well as 
the barons and royal officials, to hear the result of 
the election in the presence of the young Henry, 
who had received his father's instructions to act as 
his representative. The prior of Christ Church 
announced the choice of the chapter, the king's 

1 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 14-16. Herbert of Bosham (iii. 183), as 
will be seen shortly, speaks of a variety of objections raised by 
the monks of Christ Church ; but their opposition is nowhere so 
vividly depicted as in the Thomas Saga (i. 73), which represents 
the king's commissioners as withdrawing without the formal 
consent of the prior and his monks to the election. 

2 B. Diceto, A.D. 1162 : clero totius provinciae Cantuariorum 
generaliter Londoniae convocato, praesente Henrico filio regis et 
regni justiciariis Thomas... nemine reclamante sollenniter electus 
in archiepiscopum (i. 306). Cp. Herb. iii. 184. Fitzst. iii. 36. 
Matthew Paris says, ' congregato clero et populo totius provinciae 
Cantuariensis.' Gamier (p. 19, ed. Hippeau), Will. C. i. 9, Auct. 
Anon. i. iv. 16 speak of the council as representing the clergy and 
people of the whole realm ; and this no doubt misled Baronius, 
who styles it 'generate concilium, omnibus convenientibus epis- 
copis' (Wilkins, Concilia, i. 434). The Icelandic life gives a full 
account of these proceedings at London ; see Note at the close of 
this chapter. 


commissioners expressed their approval, and the 
assembly of clergy and nobles acquiesced in the 
election. Little Henry, only eight years of age, gave 
his consent in his father's name at the request of the 
body of bishops headed by Henry of Winchester, 
and his example was followed by the ministers of 
state, to whom the king had already communicated 
his intentions. One other formality had yet to take 
place before the archbishop-elect could be conse- 
crated. That was the release from all secular 
obligations which has already been discussed. It 
was made the subject of an earnest appeal by Henry 
bishop of Winchester, and it was readily granted by 
the royal ministers on behalf of the king 1 . 
Opposition The royal purpose was now attained. But the 
clergy. course of events had not run quite as smoothly as 
some of Thomas' friends assert. Edward Grim and 
the anonymous biographer who relates the pro- 
ceedings of the chapter of Christ Church in such 
detail both describe the election at Canterbury as 
unanimous. We are also told that the only voice 
raised in opposition at Westminster was that of 
Gilbert Foliot, bishop of Hereford 2 , a man of strict 
monastic life and eminent learning, a vegetarian and 
a total abstainer 3 , known to be in high favour with 
the king, and widely mentioned as a probable 

1 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 16-18. Grim, ii. 367. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 36: solus quod potuit dissuasit. Will. C. i. 9, 
Grim, ii. 367, Anon. Auct. i. call him "bishop of London," but it 
was not until 1163 that Gilbert was translated from Hereford to 

8 Fitzst. iii. 36 : habitu monachus, vinum vel carnem non 


successor to Theobald 1 . He stood alone, it is said, 
and withdrew his opposition when he saw that he 
was unsupported 2 , though he afterwards remarked 
that the king had wrought a miracle in turning a 
soldier and a worldling into an archbishop 3 . But 
two of the biographers, Herbert of Bosham and the 
second anonymous writer, frankly and unsuspectingly 
supply us with the materials for reconstructing the 
other side of the case. The former distinctly states 
that there was a great difference of opinion, and that 
this difference was especially marked in the chapter, 
which had the most vital interests at stake. The 
chancellor's friends, he says, were convinced that 
the Church would enjoy a firm and lasting peace 

1 Auct. Anon. n. iv. 98. 

2 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 17. Diceto, i. 306, says the election was 
confirmed ' nemine reclamante ' : this can only be true of the 
formal acceptance of the archbishop elect after Foliot had with- 
drawn his protest. 

3 Fitzst. iii. 36. Cp. the language attributed to Foliot by 
Gamier (p. 19) : 

"Ear de seinte Eglise ad persecuturs este," 
and again, 

"Destruite ad seinte Eglise: si 1'at raise en despit; 

Et a dispersunee : a tort 1'i unt eslit " 
(i.e. they have done wrong in electing him). 

Bishop Henry's only reply to this charge was an appeal to 
Thomas, which indicates that he too felt the need of a miracle 
to change the wolf into a shepherd, the persecutor Saul into a 
second apostle Paul (Gamier, p. 18) : 

"Tu fus lus a veillis: or seies pastre et prestre; 

De Saul persecutor, Pols serras et deiz estre." 
Cp. the story of the election in Thomas Saga, i. 81, 82, where 
bishop Henry appeals to Thomas to accept the primacy in similar 
words. See Note C at the end of this chapter. 

R. 14 


"with such a welcome mediator between the king 
and the priesthood." But others, he adds, looked 
askance at the royal gift to the Church. There was 
the risk of material loss. With a primate hailing 
fresh from court, the royal officials and barons would 
grasp still more boldly at the possessions of the 
Church. There was also the risk of moral and 
spiritual decline. It was a patent absurdity, a 
flagrant wrong, to set over such a holy band of 
monks a man who wore a soldier's belt with a better 
grace than the garb of a clerk, to place as pastor 
in charge of the fold a man who preferred to follow 
the hounds and feed a hawk, who would bring with 
him the appetite of a wolf sharpened by his courtier's 
life, and sacrifice all spiritual interests to pomp and 
popularity 1 . It was sheer presumption, said others, 
that one scarce fit to hold an oar should take the 
helm of the Church into his own hands 2 . The 
personal character of Thomas was not the only 
objection raised. The circumstances of his election 
were equally unsatisfactory. Some looked upon his 
apparent reluctance as grasping ambition in dis- 
guise 3 . Others condemned his election as un- 

1 Herb. iii. 183. Cp. Foliot' a language in his letter to Thomas 
in 1166, Ep. 225 (Materials, v. 535) : id dixeritis inauditum, 
officialem curiae repentino transitu ad illam sic ecclesiam umquarn 
hactenus ascendisse ut quis curiam, eras dispensaret ecclesiam, 
ab avibus et canibus ceterisque curiae jocundis usibus cito quis 
adstaret altaribus et episcopis totius regni spiritualia ministraret 
et sacerdotibus. 

2 Auct. Anon. n. iv. 85. 

3 Auct. Anon. n. iv. 85 : non horrens renuisse (creditur) sed 
ultroneus ascendisse. 


canonical on the ground that the royal pressure at 
his back had carried the day in spite of the wishes 
of the clergy and the people 1 . Foliot may have been 
the only man who spoke out his mind when the time 
came ; but he was evidently not the only man who 
objected in his heart to the elevation of Thomas 
to the primacy. Foliot's opposition may have been 
what the biographers say it was, the outcry of a 
disappointed rival 2 ; but there was evidently a large 
body of feeling against Thomas which cannot be 
explained away by the supposition of personal 
jealousy. It was apparently suppressed at West- 
minster. It had no influence on the result 3 . It was 
perhaps driven inwards, to come out again such is 
the irony of fate on the side of the king against 
the recalcitrant archbishop. But its existence is 
proved beyond a doubt by the admissions of Thomas' 
own friends and biographers. 

A still stronger light is thrown upon the election 
of 1162 by the correspondence which passed between 

1 Auct. Anon. n. iv. 85 : magis operata est regis instantia 
quam cleri vel populi vota. Fitzst. iii. 36 admits this one flaw in 
the election : praecedente notaque omni clero Angliae regis volun- 
tate, quod solum electionis illius meritis derogavit. 

2 Fitzst. iii. 36 : ut putabatur, non bene zelans electionem sed 
male electum ; aspirare enim et pro se laborare credebatur. 
Auct. Anon. i. iv. 17: ut ferebat opinio, ad archiepiscopatum ex 
diu aspiraverat. 

3 Auct. Anon. rr. iv. 87: licet (sicut evenire solet in talibus) 
aemuli quidam non parum suspiraverint, nihil tamen palam 
propositum est quod rem vel praepediret vel differret. This 
seems conclusive against Dean Hook's supposition that it was the 
opposition of the English clergy that was responsible for the long 
delay in the appointment. 



Thomas and the English clergy in consequence of 
his fulminations at Vezelay in 1166. The first letter 
of the four a remonstrance from the bishops and 
priests of the province of Canterbury, accompanied 
by a copy of their appeal to the Pope charged 
Thomas in strong language with ingratitude to the 
king who had befriended him at the outset of his 
career and had left no means untried to exalt him to 
the sacred dignity of the primacy, " in spite of the 
warnings of his mother, the loud protest of the 
whole realm, the sighing and groaning of the Church 
of God, as far as she dare give voice to her com- 
plaint 1 ." Thomas replied to the body of the clergy 
with a flat contradiction. He defied them to point 
to a single flaw in his election. All due formalities 
had been observed; the choice of the Church had 
been unanimous ; the king's son and the king's 
commissioners had given their assent; and lastly 
the English clergy had joined the king in the 
despatch of an urgent message requesting the Pope 
to forward the pallium to the archbishop who had 
been thus duly elected and consecrated 2 . In his 
letter to Foliot, the prime mover of the appeal, 
Thomas quoted the accusation verbatim as Foliot's 
handiwork, only to give it a full denial. He had 
heard the voice of the realm ; but it had been loud 
in acclamation, not in protest. The warning of 
Matilda, the king's mother, if given at all, had never 

1 Ep. 205 (v. 410) : dissuadente matre sua, regno reclamante, 
ecclesia Dei, quoad licuit, suspirante et ingemiscente, vos... omni- 
bus modis studuit sublimare. 

2 Ep. 223 (v. 498). 


found public expression. But it was quite possible 
that a few ambitious ecclesiastics, when they saw 
their hopes dashed to the ground, had given vent to 
a sigh of disappointment, the very men perhaps 
who had revenged themselves afterwards by fo- 
menting the ill-feeling between himself and the 
king 1 . 

Foliot returned to the charge with a trenchant 
reply to this apology. He complained of the arch- 
bishop's injustice in singling him out from the 
whole body of clergy for personal attack. He dis- 
avowed the very idea of having aspired to the 
primacy. Thomas, he said, knew better, if he would 
only acknowledge what he knew. The favour of 
Thomas was the one thing essential for all seekers 
after preferment. But had he ever taken pains to 
ingratiate himself with the chancellor ? He had 
not, and Thomas knew that he had not 2 . It was 

1 Ep. 224 (v. 516) : regni reclamationem non audivimus, sed 
potius acclamationem. Dissuasio vero genitricis domini nostri, si 
fuit, usque ad publicum non prodiit...Potuit autem fieri aliquas 
ecclesiasticas personas ad eandem promotionem, ut solet, aspi- 
rantes suspirasse, cum se sentirent ab ea quam conceperant spe 
decidere: qui et hodie fortassis, in ultionem sui casus, praesentis 
dissensionis auctores sunt et consiliarii. 

2 Foliot to Thomas, Ep. 225 (v. 522, 523). Robertson, in a 
foot-note on p. 43 of his " Becket, a Biography" (in the midst of a 
long digression on Foliot's life and character, pp. 41-45) points 
out that this argument of Foliot's was "not worth much in a 
case where the chancellor himself was the rival marked out by 
public rumour." The charge of aspiring to the primacy was 
brought against Foliot once more after the see was vacated by the 
murder of Thomas, and was then again denied by him (Foliot, 
Ep. 269, ed. Giles). Foliot's merits have been briefly discussed 
by Milman (Latin Christianity, iii. 454, 455) and more thoroughly 


not his own defeat, or the defeat of his friends, that 
had set him mourning over the promotion of Thomas. 
It was the degradation of the primacy, now fallen 
into the hands of a mercenary intruder of notorious 
unsanctity, who had bought his way into the king's 
service, and forced his way thence into the arch- 
bishopric for which he had been waiting. The 
death of Theobald had brought him back in hot 
haste to England, while Richard de Luci did not 
follow until some time afterwards with the royal 
mandate to the chapter. This mandate was practi- 
cally, says Foliot, a command to elect the royal 
favourite on pain of the royal displeasure 1 . Threats 
of proscription were held out as the penalty of free 
choice, if it ran counter to the royal will 2 . The 
king's messengers were urgent ; the chancellor's 
design was obvious; his friends plied threats and 

by Miss Norgate (England under the Angevin Kings, i. 492-497, ii. 

1 Foliot, Ep. 225 (v. 524): regis hie ad omnes habebat im- 
perium ut Cantuarienses monachi, ut ecclesiae ipsius episcopi 
suffraganei vos expeterent, vos eligerent, vos in patrem et pasto- 
rem, negotium nulla deliberationum mora protrahentes, assume- 
rent: alioquin iram regiam non utique declinarent, verum se 
regis hostes et suorum proculdubio ipsis rerum argumentis 

2 Foliot, Ep. 225 (v. 524) : quid loquimur experti novimus : 
attendentes enim ecclesiam Dei suffocari graviter, ob quod in 
ejus libertatem quodammodo proclamavimus , verbum proscription is 
audivimus, et exsilio crudeliter addicti sumus, nee solum persona 
nostra sed et domus patris mei et conjuncta nobis affinitas et 
cognatio tota. Hoc quidem calice et aliis propinatum est. Ap- 
parently Foliot's outspoken protest at Westminster was silenced 
by a naked threat of confiscation and exile ; and he was not the 
only man thus coerced into acquiescence. 


promises, intimidation and flattery, thick and fast ; 
opposition was hopeless. The chancellor's vengeance 
was too terrible to risk. The sword of the civil 
power was in his hand. He had plunged it once 
already into the heart of his mother Church and 
drunk deep of her blood, when he drained her 
revenues for the war of Toulouse. A second blow 
was inevitable, if his designs upon the primacy were 
thwarted; and the Church yielded in self-defence. 
Her fears proved stronger than her reluctance 1 . 
" It was thus that you entered into the sheepfold," 
wrote Foliot in conclusion, " not by the door, but by 
climbing up another way." 

We may perhaps hesitate to accept Foliot's 
disavowal of all ambitious aspiration to the primacy; 
but after making due allowance for the bitterness of 
personal jealousy and the recklessness of a "party 
pamphlet," there must remain a certain residuum 
of fact in his assertions. These two letters written 
to Thomas the archbishop four years afterwards one 
Foliot's own, the other perhaps dictated by him go 
far to explain the discrepancy between the accounts 
that come from the friends of Thomas, between the 
admission on the one hand that there was a striking 
divergence of opinion as to the merits of the royal 
candidate, and the statement on the other hand that 
the election at Canterbury was unanimous, and the 
consent of the clergy at Westminster equally unani- 
mous after the withdrawal of the one dissentient 

1 Foliot, Ep. 225 (v. 525) : qui (gladius) ne limatus denuo per 
vos aptaretur ad vulnera, jussis obtemperavit ecclesia, et de- 
clinando quae metuit, simulavit se velle quod noluit. 


voice. It was a forced unanimity. There were 
probably many, like Henry of Winchester, reduced 
to hoping against hope for a change in the character 
of their archbishop-elect. Objections were enter- 
tained, perhaps expressed; but the objectors were 
over-awed and silenced, when the time came to 
enforce their opinion at Canterbury and at West- 
minster, by the pressure of the royal authority, and, 
under tacit or open compulsion, they gave their 
consent to the promotion of a man whose fitness for 
the primacy they questioned, some perhaps prompted 
by the baser motive of personal jealousy and biassed 
by prejudice, others (we cannot doubt the fact) 
influenced by a sincere desire for what they con- 
sidered the welfare of the Church, and led to their 
conclusion by an honest review of the chancellor's 
personal conduct and ecclesiastical policy. 
The The election was confirmed in the monks' 

refectory at Westminster on the Wednesday before 
Whitsunday, 1162 1 . No time was lost by the 
archbishop-elect and his friends in proceeding to 
Canterbury. Herbert of Bosham tells the story of 
this journey from personal reminiscence 2 . Thomas 

1 E. Diceto, i. 307, A.D. 1162: electionem factam sine aliqua 
contradictione recitavit Henricus Wintoniensis episcopus apud 
Westmustier in refectoris monachorum iiii a feria ante Pente- 

2 Herb. iii. 185, 186. Thomas Saga represents the archbishop- 
elect as riding away from London with a large following of clerks 
and laymen to Merton, where he joined the monastic order, and 
changed " his costly weeds and silk attire " for the garb of a canon 
regular. This done, he rode off towards Canterbury, and on the 
way confided to Herbert the vision of the ten pounds, and asked 


was lost in anxious reflection, absorbed in the 
thought of what his life had been in the past, and 
what it must be in the future. Like a man awaking 
out of deep slumber, he saw before him the 
prospect of a life in which his real self, hitherto 
buried and almost forgotten as a dream of the past, 
could and must come to the front. On the way 
down from London to Canterbury he called Herbert 
to his side, and related to him a dream of the 
previous night, in which a man of venerable appear- 
ance had placed ten talents in his hands. Herbert 
could not interpret its meaning at the time, but 
after-events made the interpretation plain. It must 
have been a prophecy of the reward prepared for the 
future saint the faithful servant who had received 
five talents, and was in the end to gain other five. 
But a more signal proof of Thomas' confidence and 
esteem was in store for the faithful Herbert. Thomas 
requested him there and then to act in future as 
his private monitor, to call his attention to any 
impression that his conduct might make upon the 
world outside, and quietly remind him of faults that 
might escape his own notice. "Four eyes," said 
Thomas, "see further and clearer than two." The 
value of Herbert's testimony to what was passing in 
the mind of his master may be doubted ; but this 
request for friendly criticism is at least an illustration 
of what seems to have been the ruling principle of 

him to report all rumours current about his conduct and point 
out his failings (Thomas Saga, pp. 85, 87). But it is scarcely 
likely that the faithful Herbert should have omitted the ordina- 
tion at Merton if it took place on this journey. 


Thomas' life, the determination to act up to his 
ideal of the position, whatever it was, in which he 
found himself. As archbishop he must take heed to 
his ways, and aim at a new and saintlier type of life, 
even if the attempt involved an artificial and unreal 
attitude, as in this case it seems to have done ; and 
we can easily understand his looking for a friend to 
act as his mirror and reveal the defects that might 
escape his own notice, however earnest he might be 
in self-examination. 

His con- At Canterbury, where bishops, abbots, monks 

secration. an( j Darons were thronging in crowds, a solemn 

reception awaited Thomas and his friends at the 
hands of clergy and citizens alike 1 . The archbishop- 
elect was still a deacon, and he had first to receive 
priest's orders, This was done on the Saturday after 
Whitsunday 2 . He was ordained priest in the 
cathedral by Walter bishop of Rochester, who 
usually acted as the vicegerent of Canterbury. A 
question had been raised as to the right of conse- 
crating the archbishop 3 . It was the privilege of the 
bishop of London as provincial dean, but that see 
was now vacant 4 . The right was claimed by the 
bishop of Winchester as the vicegerent of the bishop 

1 Herb. iii. 188. Auct. Anon. i. iv. 18, 19. Thomas Saga, 
i. 89. 

2 Diceto, i. 307: electus autem sabbato Pentecostes ordinatus 
est in presbyterum in ecclesia Cantuariensi a Waltero Eofensi 
episcopo, in ordinationibus et in dedicationibus faciendis ecclesiae 
Cantuariensis vicario. 

3 Herb. iii. 188. 

4 Richard bishop of London died on the 4th of May, 1162. 
R. Diceto, i. 306. 


of London ; and a counter-claim was made by the 
bishop of Rochester, as the special chaplain of the 
archbishop in virtue of the privileges of his see 1 . 
There was a third claimant of importance, the rival 
archbishop of York, who, after holding aloof up to 
this point, now came forward to assert the dignity of 
the northern see; but the primate-elect and the 
bishops of the southern province were unwilling to 
let him perform the rite until he had made due 
profession of allegiance to Canterbury; and with 
this condition Roger of York refused to comply 2 . 
At last the bishop of Rochester consented to waive 
his claim in deference to the veteran Henry of 
Winchester 3 , who, as a prelate of royal blood and 
" the father of the whole English episcopate," was 
acknowledged to be the most fitting person to 
consecrate the new primate. The ceremony took 
place in the cathedral on Sunday, the octave of 
Whitsunday, June 3, 1162 4 . The order of the service 

1 Herb. iii. 188. 

2 Gervase (Act. Pontif. Cant. s. v. Thomas). In his chronicle 
(i. 170, ed. Stubbs) he says that one Welsh bishop claimed the 
right as senior member of the episcopate ; but it is not clear who 
this can have been. Winchester was consecrated in 1129. His 
claim was supported by a letter from the London clergy (Robert - 
son, Becket, p. 47). 

3 Herb. iii. 188 : salvo in hac parte jure Rofensis ecclesiae, de 
Rofensis consensu Henrico Wintoniensi episcopo archipraesulis 
cousecratio delata est. Diceto, i. 307 : sequenti die Dominica 
consecratus est a Henrico Wintoniensi episcopo vice Londoniensis 
ecclesiae tune vacantis : quod ad jus suum spectare dicebat 
Rofensis episcopus, sed non obtinuit. 

4 Gervase, Chron. i. 170, gives the date (iii. Non. Jun.) and the 
names of the bishops present : 

Henry of Winchester, Bartholomew of Exeter, 


is described in full detail in an extant fragment of 
an unknown biography. At an early hour on that 
Sunday morning, in full view of an eager congrega- 
tion of barons, knights and commoners, who thronged 
the nave, with the little king and the ministers of 
state in the forefront, while the choir was occupied 
by the fourteen bishops and their attendant clergy 
and the crowd of monks and canons, Thomas came 
out from the vestry robed in the black cassock and 
white surplice of a simple priest. It was an impressive 
sight, as he moved slowly up the choir to the great 
altar, and bent over its steps for a time in prayer. 
Thence he rose and was conducted back to the 
entrance of the choir, where the release of the 
primate-elect from all secular obligations was form- 
ally requested by his consecrator in the name of the 
church of Canterbury 1 , and formally granted in the 

Nigel of Ely, Eobert of Lincoln, 

Robert of Bath, Walter of Rochester, 

Jocelin of Salisbury, Nicolas of Llandaff , 

William of Norwich, David of Menai, 

Hilary of Chichester, Godfrey of Llanelly, 

Richard of Chester, Gilbert of Hereford. 

Herb. iii. 189 merely mentions that there were fourteen, 
including the consecrator. 

1 Lansdowne MS. (Materials, iv. 154, 155). Most of the 
biographers place this release from secular claims at London, 
immediately after the election: Auct. Anon. i. iv. pp. 17, 18; 
Will. C. i. 9; Grim, ii. 367; Herb. iii. 185; Gamier, p. 19; and 
Thomas Saga, i. 81. Fitzstephen's language (iii. 36), though not 
quite clear, seems to fall in with the statement of the Lansdowne 
MS., and Miss Norgate is inclined to regard the Auct. Anon, i., 
Will. C., and Grim, as borrowing their statement from Gamier. 
This would reduce the weight of authority in favour of the release 


king's name by little Henry 1 , the justiciar Robert of 
Leicester, and the rest of the ministers of state 2 . 
This done, the bishop of Winchester proceeded with 
the solemn rite ; and Thomas of London, archdeacon 
of Canterbury and chancellor of England, now in the 
forty-fourth year of his age, was consecrated arch- 
bishop of Canterbury and primate of all Britain 3 . 

at London; but Herbert, who travelled with Thomas from 
London to Canterbury, has still to be reckoned with. 

It may be possible to combine the two statements. Perhaps 
the release was actually secured at London immediately after the 
election, and was formally repeated and confirmed on the day of 

1 The young king is described in the Lansdowne MS. (p. 155) as 
ten years old or more (tune major decenni) : but he was born in 
March, 1155 (Gervase, i. 161, ed. Stubbs), and was therefore little 
more than seven years of age at the time of the consecration. 

2 The Lansdowne MS. describes Robert of Leicester as 
'principalis justitiarius Angliae.' Elsewhere, e.g. in Herbert's 
account of the consecration, it is Richard de Luci who is present 
at the consecration and is designated by the above title. 

3 The Sunday on which Thomas was consecrated was soon 
afterwards elected by him to be the festival of the Holy Trinity 
(Gervase, i. 171, ed. Stubbs), which has always been kept on that 
day in England since his time. Fitzstephen in his account of the 
consecration describes the day thus: Octava Pentecostes, Ecclesiae 
Cantuariensis festa die Sanctae Trinitatis (iii. 36). Father Morris 
remarks that "the Convent of the Blessed Trinity" occurs even in 
papal letters as an alternative title for Christ Church, Canter- 
bury, and probably the festival of the Holy Trinity was already 
observed at Canterbury as a titular feast of the cathedral, if not 
a feast of the Church. He takes Gervase therefore to refer to the 
extension of the festival to the whole province of Canterbury 
(S. Thomas, p. 70). The festival thus instituted in the Church of 
England was adopted in the Roman Church by Pope John XXII. 
early in the 14th century. 


THE ELECTION AT LONDON. (Thomas Saga, i. 73 83.) 

The Icelandic version of this event in the life of Thomas 
is much fuller than that of any of the other biographers, 
and it is reproduced here in summary, partly because it 
deserves a place to itself as a connected whole, and partly 
because I was unable to consult it in time to embody it 
in the text of the essay. The Saga paints a vivid picture 
of the difference of opinion in the chapter of Canterbury 
as to the fitness of the royal candidate. At last, runs 
the Saga, the king's messengers, " finding that they had 
to deal with contentions instead of an election and with 
tardiness instead of goodwill," summoned the represen- 
tatives of the chapter to London, there to meet certain 
bishops and magnates of the realm. The election is 
described in detail. Thomas was waiting outside within 
easy reach ; but " the lord cardinal Henry " of Pisa, 
whose assistance the king had secured by a private 
understanding in Normandy (TJiomas Saga p. 67), was 
present from the outset by the side of the king's little 
son, who had seen the letter which gave him full powers 
to act on behalf of his father. The bishops began 
by offering a prayer for guidance in their choice to "God, 
who seeth the hearts of all men." The royal messengers 
then opened and read the king's letter recommending 
Thomas for election; but the same divergence of opinion 
which prevented the chapter from coming to a decision 
at Canterbury now threatened to baffle the king's design 
at London, " some urging fulfilment of the king's words, 


others withstanding them stubbornly, saying that Thomas 
is in no wise a person fitted for such a station, a man of 
mark though he be among lay powers." Gilbert Foliot 
proposed that the matter should await the king's de- 
cision ; but Hilary bishop of Chichester pertinently 
replied that they had just received plain proof of the 
intentions of the king, who was represented by his son. 
A certain abbot ventured to plead for the appointment 
of a regular to the chair of the monk Augustine ; but 
Hilary silenced this protest in a fashion quite consistent 
with the anti-monastic prejudice that had marked his 
conflict with the abbot of Battle in years gone by. 
"Deem ye, sir abbot," replied the bishop, "that none 
may be acceptable to God unless he be of your manner 
of living ? far from it ! " Henry of Winchester now put 
in a good word for Thomas; but the feeling of the 
assembly swayed from side to side, as one speaker after 
another gave vent to the promptings of reason or self- 
interest, and the issue seemed more uncertain than ever. 
At last the cardinal came to the front and silenced the 
malcontents by an unmistakable hint at the consequences 
of their obstruction; "and now through his guidance 
they all say now yea to Thomas being elected, although," 
the Saga significantly adds, " the hearts of some of them 
went right another way." The cardinal now requested 
his namesake the bishop of Winchester to lay the case 
before the chancellor. Thomas was admitted into the 
hall, and informed of his election "for the glory of the 
Holy Trinity, for the governance of the Church and for 
the good of the people." The bishop concluded by 
requesting the chancellor's assent to the choice of the 
assembly ; but Thomas prayed to be spared the responsi- 
bilities of such an exalted office, weighed down as he 
was already by the cares of state and unredeemed from 


his own burden," the chancellorship. Richard de Luci 
then came to the rescue and explained that it was part 
of the commission entrusted to himself and his fellow- 
messengers and part of the instructions contained in the 
king's letter to his son that the chancellor was to be 
absolved from all claims of state; and the absolution 
was formally given there and then in the presence of 
witnesses. Still Thomas shrank from accepting the offer 
of the primacy with its new responsibilities and its 
prospect of conflict with the king ; and he only yielded 
at last to an earnest appeal from the bishop of Win- 
chester, crediting him with sorrow for his old offences, 
and urging him to let the future atone for the past. 
"Call to mind how he did, Paul, who aforetime with- 
stood the Church of God, but was sithence the greatest 
prop of her in word and example, and glorified her at 
last in his blood at his death." The chancellor resisted 
no longer, but gave a reluctant assent. The whole 
assembly rose to its feet, and the hymn Te Deum was 
sung amid the ringing of bells ; and thus the meeting 
ended. " So he rideth away from London, having first 
resigned into the hands of the young Henry all the feofs 
and properties which he had held of the Crown anigh 
and afar 1 ." 

1 Mr Magniisson (Thomas Saga, i. 82, note 10) interprets this 
as referring to the resignation of the chancellorship, which he 
is inclined to place " immediately following the election." Such 
is his inference from Wendover's description of the step as 
"resignatio tarn subita" (Chron. ed. Coxe, ii. 292, 293). But 
not one of the other authorities mentions the resignation until 
after the consecration, though they do not say how long or 
short the interval was. Cp. Will. C. i. 12. E. de Diceto (i. 307) 
merely places it in 1162. 



THE character of Thomas of London has suffered 
equally at the hands of friends and enemies. It has 
been depicted chiefly from the facts of his life as 
archbishop ; and as those facts are frequently sus- 
ceptible of a twofold interpretation, the chancellor's 
portrait has been painted in very different colours. 
The historian who, blinded by anti-ecclesiastical 
prejudice, sees nothing but arrogance and insincerity 
in the archbishop, condemns the chancellor off-hand 
as " a tyrannical and unscrupulous minister." The 
churchman who reveres the primate as a saint and 
martyr strives to make out a plausible case for the 
incipient sanctity of the chancellor. Both views are 
wide of the mark. The a priori element is obvious 
in either estimate. Characteristic facts are selected 
or ignored to suit the presupposition with which the 
writer comes to his work; and the result is sheer- 
contradiction between the two. 

It is only with Thomas the clerk and Thomas 
the chancellor that we are now concerned. The 
character of Thomas the archbishop falls outside the 
R. 15 


limits of this essay, which leaves him on the thresh- 
old of the third and last stage of his career. His 
early training at home, at school, at college and at 
the desk, his rise to eminence in Church and state, 
have all been traced in detail. It now remains to 
sum up what information may be gathered from the 
contemporary biographers as to the character of the 
man up to this point. The task is rendered all the 
easier by the fact that each stage in his development 
is clearly marked in their narratives. They note 
each change of manner as it came with the change 
of position ; and on the whole their evidence has the 
air of truth. They record the failings of their hero 
without hesitation, though they naturally dwell with 
greater satisfaction on his merits. One biographer 
the anonymous writer identified until recently 
with Roger of Pontigny modestly claims for himself 
at the outset the credit of impartiality 1 , and the 
claim is well supported by the calm judicial tone of 
the character-sketch which follows. It is a vivid 
picture of the man as his friends knew him. Quick 
of sight and hearing 2 , endowed with a memory that 
rarely failed him and a ready perception that gave 
him the start of men more deeply learned than 
himself, yet too keenly appreciative of the pleasures 
of city-life to derive the full benefit of his studies 

1 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 5: qualiter primaevae aetatis tempora 
transegerit percurramus, nihil more laudantis vel aliquem com- 
mendare satagentis apponentes, sed simplicem veritatem simplici 
et fideli sermone breviter annotantes. 

2 The Saga represents him as suffering from an impediment in 
his speech; but it can only have been slight, for it is not men- 
tioned elsewhere. 


at school and at the university; vain and proud of 
his personal appearance, yet open-hearted and open- 
handed to a fault ; given at times to the frivolities 
of love, yet never crossing the bounds of decency 
and purity; a winning handsome youth who found 
his way to the hearts of young and old, and did not 
forfeit the affections even of the men from whose 
coarseness he shrank with undisguised aversion, 
such was Thomas of London in the days of his early 
manhood 1 . 

With his entrance into the household of Theobald 
whether that step was taken of his own deliberate 
choice or at the call of circumstances there came 
a marked change 2 . He was thrown among new 
faces and new surroundings, and associated with a 
new set of men, some of them his seniors in age and 
his superiors in learning and experience, others his 
eager rivals in the race for promotion ; and his 
character took a more serious turn. The influence 
of older and graver men and the stimulus of com- 
petition did their work. Thomas had now found a 
profession to follow, a position to improve, and he 
threw himself into his new calling with a vigour 
that soon told upon his prospects. Before long he 
had won not only the approval but the affection of 

1 Auct. Anon. i. iv. 5, 6, 8. Cp. Job. S. ii. 303. Will. C. i. 
3, 4. There is no sign as yet of deep religious feeling. Herbert 
bints in fact that his growth in grace would not bear compari- 
son with bis progress in popular estimation (iii. 163) : crevit 
et industria et gratia apud homines sed apud Dpminum non 

2 Grim, ii. 361: ludis et levitate postposita, seniorum sapien- 
tumque sermonibus ad meliora semper animum informabat. 



the archbishop, and had become his dearest friend 
and trustiest servant 1 . 

So far the character of Thomas presents no 
difficulty. There is plenty of variety but no con- 
tradiction in the statements of his biographers ; and 
the general effect is natural and intelligible. It is 
the life and conduct of Thomas the chancellor that 
has left such different impressions upon his bio- 
graphers and given rise to such a wide divergence 
of opinion among modern writers. The simplest 
plan will be to let the original authorities tell their 
own tale. They agree on the whole in speaking of 
a distinct change of life, a relapse, as some of them 
practically describe it, from the high aims and serious 
occupations of the clerk to the lower level of the 
man of the world. They depict the chancellor as a 
courtier of courtiers, fond of luxury and display in 
dress and living, bent on popularity above everything, 
equally at home in the chase and on the field of 
battle, condescending even to the coarse humour 
of the barons at court, while he forgot, if he did 
not despise, his clerical brethren 2 . Grim dwells with 
regretful emphasis upon one new feature which 
showed itself in his character at this stage the 
ruthless cruelty with which he visited the enemies 

1 Grim, ii. 361. Auct. Anon. r. iv. 9. Job. S. ii. 303. 
Will. C. i. 3, 4. Thomas Saga (i. 37) says on the authority of 
"Prior Robert" that Theobald found in Thomas' gentle tact a 
timely corrective to his own quick temper, and in Thomas' 
eloquence a supplement to his own poverty of language. There is 
however no parallel to this in the original authorities. 

2 Will. C. i. 5. Auct. Anon. n. iv. 85. Herb. iii. 176, 183. 
Cp. Joh. S. Ep. to Baldwin of Exeter in 1166 (vi. 101). 


of his lord the king ; and he paints a vivid contrast 
between the peaceful temper of Thomas the clerk 
and the relentless ferocity of Thomas the soldier- 
chancellor in his assertion of the king's power 1 . It 
was a startling revelation to his friends. These 
pictures may perhaps have been coloured to enhance 
by contrast his later sanctity, but they are probably 
in the main true. As Herbert quaintly says, on 
entering the king's service he put off the deacon 
and put on the chancellor 2 . This however is only 
one phase of the man's character. Side by side with 
these painful admissions there are indications of 
positive merits to be placed to his credit. Far from 
being entirely destitute of virtues, he had retained 
or developed qualities of rare excellence. He was 
truthful, and hated slander as he would a lie. He 
was faithful to his earthly lord 3 . Above all, he was 
scrupulously chaste. His biographers are justly 
emphatic upon this point 4 ; for it was apparently 

1 Grim, ii. 365. 

2 Herb. iii. 173: levitam pro tempore exuit et cancellarium 
induit. Herbert cannot resist tbe temptation to jest upon the 
word (iii. 172): nee enim levita factus mox supposuit humeros 
levitarum oneribus sed levitatis potius et saeculi hujus operibus ex 
tune magis operam dabat. 

3 Herb. iii. 166 : labia mendacia et linguam semper detestabat 
detrahentem. iii. 167 : castitatis amator, ut diximus, veritatis 
aemulus, fidem etiam quae terrenis debetur dominis summa 
semper colens devotione. 

4 Grim, ii. 365. Job. S. ii. 303. Will. C. i. 5, 6, tells how he 
refused the advances of an old mistress of the king's at Stafford, 
and how his host, who thought he had gone to the lady's house, 
found him sleeping on the floor of his own room, wearied out with 
his devotions. The same story is told in Thomas Saga (i. 53, 54) 


an unusual virtue in kings' palaces. It was the one 
exception to the community of taste and occupation 
between the king and his chancellor. Thomas kept 
his personal purity intact in spite of the atmosphere 
of the court and the direct temptations placed in his 
way by the king himself 1 . More than that, Thomas 
did what he could to maintain a good tone in his 
own household, and prevent its luxury and magnifi- 
cence from degenerating into vice. He expelled 
from his service and imprisoned in the Tower of 
London one of his clerks, Richard d'Ambli, who had 
invaded the sanctity of the home of an absent friend-. 
Truthfulness and chastity were not his only virtues 3 . 
He was liberal in almsgiving 4 . The merit of this 

and by Gamier (p. 12), who gives the names. The lady was 
A vice of Stafford, the host 'Vivien le clerc.' 

1 Fitzst. iii. 21, says that he had the fact from Thomas' 
confessor, Robert of Merton : ex quo cancellarius factus est, 
nulla eum polluit luxuria. This need not imply that his life had 
been unchaste before his appointment; it simply means that 
Robert's personal knowledge of Thomas' chastity dated from the 
very outset of his chancellorship. Auct. Anon. i. iv. 14, quotes 
similar testimony to Thomas' purity from those who were in 
attendance upon him for twenty years or more : this period, if it 
included his later life as archbishop, would still carry us back at 
least four years beyond the date of his appointment to the 

2 Fitzst. iii. 21. 

3 Mr Froude, in the Nineteenth Century for 1877, wrote : 
" The only virtue which Edward Grim allows him to have pre- 
served unsullied was his chastity." Freeman was justly severe 
upon this unwarranted assertion (Contemp. Review, vol. 32, 
pp. 478-480); and it has been omitted in the Short Studies, 
vol. iv. 

4 Grim, ii. 303: pauperibus absque aestimatione necessaria 
ministrabat. Cp. Auet. Anon. i. iv. 13. Fitzst. iii. 21. 


may perhaps be discounted by regarding it as part 
of his general magnificence. Grim says that it was 
so regarded, even when he was archbishop. But 
there is another fact which cannot be explained 
away. Fitzstephen tells us that in the midst of 
all his worldly grandeur the chancellor bared his 
back in secret to the lash. When he was in the 
neighbourhood of London, Ralph the prior of Holy 
Trinity acted as his father flagellant ; in the neigh- 
bourhood of Canterbury, Thomas priest of St 
Martin's 1 . False and unnatural as this idea of 
spiritual discipline may seem to us now, it was dear 
to the mediaeval seekers after sanctity, and Thomas 
deserves at least credit for sincerity in his asceticism. 
Robert of Cricklade is responsible for an anecdote 
which speaks as forcibly for the chancellor's devotions. 
A kinsman of Robert's who went early one morning 
to lay a petition before the chancellor saw in the 
dim twilight a figure prostrate in prayer at the door 
of a certain church. On his admission a little later 
to the chancellor's presence, he recognised at once 
the very dress that he had noted in the grey light 
of the dawn, and found to his great astonish- 
ment that the king's chancellor and the unknown 
worshipper at the church-door were one and the 
same 2 . If this story be true, then it proves that 
the chancellor had not discarded the habit of prayer 
with which he was credited while yet a clerk in the 
service of the archbishop 3 . His severest critic denies 

1 Fitzst. iii. 22. 

2 Thomas Saga, i. 51, 53. 

3 Thomas Saga, i. 39. 


that he showed as chancellor any of the " features 
of the Becket of Catholic tradition 1 ." But this is an 
estimate which can only be accepted by a wholesale 
rejection of the evidence of his biographers. They 
distinctly attribute to the chancellor three of " the 
main features of a personally devout life, strictness 
of moral conduct, abundance of almsdeeds, and severe 
religious mortifications 2 ." They assign to him a 
private character that would be more than creditable 
in a layman of that age and might put many a clerk 
to shame. Secularity is the only fault with which 
he can be charged. Ecclesiastical duties were neg- 
lected for the employments of the court and the 
camp, and the archdeacon lived the life of a layman 
and a courtier; but, in the words of one who has 
analysed his character with masterly insight, it was 
" the life of a layman and a courtier who, while he 
left certain official duties to others, never forgot his 

personal moral and religious duties Had he only 

been a layman instead of a deacon, we should have 
in him a model minister of his age. The misfortune 
was that except by the path of the ecclesiastical 
calling he could never have found his way to a 
position for which he was exactly suited, but with 
which the ecclesiastical calling was altogether in- 
consistent 3 ." 

It is precisely this inconsistency which is the 

1 Froude, Short Studies, iv. 29: "except in the arbitrariness of 
his conduct," he adds significantly. Such a touch as this reveals 
the bias of the writer unmistakably. 

! Freeman, Contemp. Review, vol. 32, p. 484. 

3 Freeman, Contemp. Eeview, vol. 32, p. 474. 


real difficulty in the life of Thomas. His private 
character will bear the closest inspection, but Thomas 
was not a private individual. He was a public 
character, and private virtues are not incompatible 
with public vices. Such a vice in general estimation 
is inconsistency. Rightly or wrongly, consistency is 
the one quality which the world requires most rigidly 
of its great statesmen ; and it is no easy task to 
justify the conduct of a public man who turns his 
back upon the past, joins issue with his old comrades 
in Church or state, and attacks the cause he once 
defended. It can only be done by proving that the 
apparent inconsistency was after all consistent, 
that the same principle was at work all along, 
necessitating or justifying a change of action to 
meet a change of circumstances. Now the incon- 
sistency of which Thomas stands convicted by the 
evidence of his biographers proves after all to be 
consistency of a kind. The very change of attitude 
towards the great questions of his day, which has 
brought the accusation upon his head, is seen to be 
the natural result of the change in his position. A 
brief review of his public career will make the 
crucial point clear. We are not concerned here 
with the policy of the archbishop, except to notice 
that the change from chancellorship to primacy, 
bringing Thomas as it did back to the old ground 
on a higher level, brought back the old views in- 
tensified. The archbishop resumed and extended 
the ideas that he had begun to work out in the 
service of Theobald. Our attention is concentrated 
by the limits of this essay on the inconsistency 


between the first two great phases of Thomas' 
career, between the aim and bearing of his actions 
as the servant of Theobald, and the aim and bearing 
of his actions as chancellor. The contrast between 
the ecclesiastical calling and the secular conduct of 
the chancellor has been already dealt with. The 
point now at issue is the change that came over his 
ecclesiastical views and his attitude with reference 
to the rights and wrongs of the Church. 

Two facts stand out distinctly in connexion with 
the services which "Thomas the clerk of London" 
rendered to Theobald. Both in his efforts to procure 
the legatine commission for the primate and in the 
steps which he recommended or took to prevent the 
coronation of Eustace, Thomas on behalf of Theo- 
bald accepted and by his acceptance strengthened 
the papal claim to jurisdiction in England. And in 
his study of civil and canon law abroad with the 
consent, if not at the suggestion of Theobald, we 
have indications of a design of extending and solidi- 
fying the episcopal jurisdiction in the Church courts 
at home, with a systematic code of Church law that 
would hold its own, if it did not gain ground, in the 
face of the common law of the state. Thomas in 
short bade fair to prove a staunch ecclesiastic on the 
points at issue between the Church and the Crown. 
His attitude at this stage is clearly defined. It is 
not so simple a matter to pronounce upon the 
ecclesiastical policy of the chancellor; but, to sum 
up the results already obtained, the case stands 
briefly thus. In the tenure of preferment the 
chancellor was a pluralist in an age of pluralities, 


rather above than below the standard of his day, 
for he did observe limits in the accumulation of 
benefices for himself. In the disposal of patronage 
he was judicious in his selection of men, and ex- 
ercised a salutary influence over the king; nor 
should his frequent intercession for clergy in distress 
be forgotten in this connexion. So far the chan- 
cellor's conduct leaves little room for dissatisfaction ; 
but there is unfortunately more to be said. His 
ecclesiastical duties as archdeacon of Canterbury 
were neglected, at the cost of Theobald's loving 
confidence. His ecclesiastical views fell into the 
background. They were either abandoned or kept 
in suspense. He seems, it is true, on his entrance 
to the king's service, to have encountered opposition 
through his efforts on behalf of the rights of suf- 
fering clergy as well as laymen, pro necessitate 
ecclesiae et provincialium, as John of Salisbury says ; 
he seems to have protested strenuously against 
one breach at least of the ecclesiastical laws of 
marriage ; but we have no trace of the views of 
ecclesiastical policy upon which he had acted as the 
servant of Theobald, and which he afterwards up- 
held so obstinately as archbishop. On the contrary 
we find him twice in conflict with Theobald on the 
question of the powers and privileges of the Church. 
By enforcing the scutage of 1156 and 1159 upon the 
clergy, he practically denied their right to immunity 
from taxation ; and in the Battle Abbey case of 
1157 he threw the whole force of his eloquence and 
influence on the side of the Crown against the 
papal claim to intervene in ecclesiastical causes in 


It is an unmistakable change of front, whatever 
explanation lay behind. The staunch ecclesiastic of 
the archbishop's court proves as staunchly anti- 
ecclesiastic in the service of the king. It is a clear 
case of inconsistency, as that word is generally 
understood. It is not a case of conversion. The 
supposition that Thomas changed his views of ec- 
clesiastical policy in the light of fuller experience 
and maturer judgment only postpones the difficulty. 
A second conversion will be requisite to explain the 
archbishop's return to his former standpoint, and by 
that time our belief in his powers of judgment will 
be reduced to a minimum. But there is no need for 
such a supposition. On closer inspection we find 
that there is a consistency in the actions of Thomas, 
a link connecting the two phases of his career 
which at first sight seem to have little or nothing in 
common. It is not the consistency of the great 
mind which shapes its own ideal at the outset, takes 
that ideal as its guiding principle, and keeps it 
always in view, adapting circumstances to its pur- 
pose where they can be so adapted, and avoiding 
them where they cannot. It is not the consistency 
of the man who follows his principles where they bid 
him take a new departure even at the cost of a 
painful wrench from old associations. It is the 
consistency less lofty, but not less real on its lower 
level of the man who is faithful to the ideal of the 
office in which he is placed, but allows himself to be 
placed in office without any definite choice of his 
own; who holds to his principles, but takes them 
from his position, instead of carrying them into it ; 


who does whatever he finds to do with all his might, 
but leaves circumstances to find it for him. It is, if 
the expression is permissible, a fragmentary or sec- 
tional consistency. The life of Thomas of London is 
not a consistent whole. It falls into distinct sections, 
each of them inconsistent with the previous section, 
but each of them having a consistency of its own. 
Removed from the secular atmosphere of a city 
office to the service of the Church, Thomas throws 
himself heart and soul into the aims and pursuits 
of the ecclesiastical calling. Removed from the 
service of the archbishop to the service of the king, 
Thomas sets himself loyally to carry out his ideal of 
the chancellor's office, and looks at everything in 
Church and state with the eyes of a chancellor, 
whose first duty is to execute his royal master's will. 
Removed once more from the chancellorship to the 
primacy, Thomas resolutely begins to act up to his 
ideal of a great archbishop, involving as it did to 
him the pursuit of personal sanctity and the main- 
tenance of ecclesiastical privilege. " Twice in his 
life he was placed in altogether new positions in 
the hope that he would carry the spirit of the 
old position into the new. Both times he dis- 
appointed the hopes of those who put him in the 
new place 1 ." The spirit of the new position was 
more powerful than the associations of the old, more 
powerful even than the recollections of his former 
patron's intentions in procuring his elevation. 

This is not a lofty type of character. Thomas 

1 Freeman, Contemp. Revieic, vol. 32, p. 475. 


cannot in fact be ranked among statesmen or pre- 
lates of the highest order. A man of high moral 
and intellectual capacity, it has been forcibly said, 
"would not have changed from one object to another 
in this way. Such an one would do his official duty 
in any office in which he was placed ; but he would 
have settled objects of pursuit to be followed through 
life. He would either keep himself clear of offices 
which were inconsistent with those objects, or he 
would adapt his offices to his purposes and not 
adapt his purposes to his offices. This last is what 
Thomas did 1 ." His strength lay not in creative 
genius, but in his faculty of self-adaptation. He 
had not the originality of the reformer, but he was 
invaluable as a minister to a king who was himself a 
reformer. He belonged to the class of men who 
make the best servants and the worst masters. But 
he was not merely an efficient instrument in the 
fulfilment of the king's purposes. Within certain 
limits he had a real power of his own. As chan- 
cellor he allowed his office to shape his views, but in 
return he remade the office. There were two potent 
factors in his character. One was personal ambi- 
tion ; the other was that " strong sense of immediate 
duty " which from another point of view we may call 
official pride ; and the two together led him to 
magnify his office, and carry its powers and claims 
to their fullest extent. At the beginning of the 
reign of Henry II. the chancellor was merely the 
king's secretary, an ordinary official of the royal 

1 Freeman, Contemp. Revieic, vol. 32, p. 475. 


household. From his time onwards the chancellor 
was a great minister of state. So marked had been 
the growth of the chancellorship under Thomas that 
when he resigned the office there was no man for a 
time to fill his place. 

The merits of Thomas the archbishop, martyr, 
and saint, have been long before the world. The 
merits of Thomas the chancellor have yet to be 
recognised. For seven centuries his title to great- 
ness was based upon his primacy, but it may perhaps 
prove after all to lie in the chancellorship which he 
held for eight eventful years as " the great minister 
of a great king." It is certain, to quote Dr. Freeman 
once more, that " a fame which was partly factitious 
has robbed him of a fame which was truer and 
better deserved " ; and the labour of this essay will 
be well repaid if it is found to contribute anything 
towards the fuller appreciation of " the man who was! 
the most striking embodiment of the fusion ofl 
Normans and English on English ground, who in his| 
own day brought back peace and order to a troubled 
realm, and who has left the personal impress of his 
own administrative power on several of the most 
important institutions of our country 1 ." 

1 Freeman, Contemp. Review, vol. 32, p. 132. 


"The Heal Thomas Becket" 

The Nineteenth Century for February 1893 contained 
under the above title a passionate vindication of the 
merits of Thomas of London which excited considei'able 
interest at the time. It came from the pen of Miss 
Agnes Lambert, and took the form of a tribute of praise 
to the late Poet Laureate, the first writer, in Miss 
Lambert's opinion, who has done adequate justice to the 
" historical " Becket. The article falls roughly into two 
parts, (1) a history of the traditional prejudice against 
Thomas which dates from the day when the coarse 
vulgarity of Henry VIII. held him up to public scorn 
by a mock trial and condemnation as a traitor to king 
and country, (2) an attempt to dispel the cloud of 
slander and odium by a revelation of "the real Thomas 
Becket " of history. 

The earlier half of the article consists mainly of a 
summary verdict of censure on nearly every historian 
who has dealt with Miss Lambert's hero, from Lord 
Ly ttelton downwards. Not only Lord Campbell, Southey, 
Canon Robertson and the present Mr J. A. Froude, but 
Dean Milman, the late Professor Freeman, and Bishop 
Stubbs are condemned as slaves in a greater or less 
degree to the influence of this inherited bias from which 
the learned Jesuit, Father Morris, and the elder Froude 
alone among prose-writers and among poets Aubrey 
Vere and Tennyson have broken away, a bias which 
sooner or later proves too powerful for the loyalty to 


original authority and the desire to be just which Miss 
Lambert is willing to recognise as underlying the work 
of the great Oxford historians of the age. This is not 
the place to deal in detail with the specific charges 
brought against each name in the long roll of writers 
thus condemned. That is a task which would involve 
the repetition of much that has been already stated in 
the foregoing pages. But it is not too much to say that 
the general reader will hesitate a long time before he 
abjures his faith in the judgment of the master-historians 
of this century at the bidding of even the most fervid 
advocate of the historical drama. It is too large a 
demand upon our credulity, unless it is supported by 
something like adequate historical evidence ; but it is 
precisely on this ground that Miss Lambert's case breaks 

In the second part of her article the writer begins 
by insisting upon "the perfect continuity of the mind 
and character of Thomas Becket. His circumstances, 
duties and surroundings changed suddenly and greatly, 
but he never changed. The man was the same through- 
out. Let us read him as those read him who lived with 
him" (p. 282). The sketch of his life which occupies 
the rest of the article is necessarily inadequate. The 
space is limited, and its avowed aim is to rehabilitate 
Thomas by an appeal to his contemporaries. It was 
natural therefore, perhaps inevitable, that some of the 
facts which tell against Thomas should be omitted ; and 
it was natural too, considering the primary purpose of 
the whole article, that a good deal of space should be 
devoted to quotations from the late Laureate's "Becket" 
and the writer's own comments thereon. We are only 
concerned here with her judgment of the chancellor. 
To her vindication of many of his moral qualities his 

R. 16 


purity, his truthfulness, his devotional habits the 
heartiest assent must be given. It is however a work of 
supererogation ; it has been done already and better 
done. The late Professor Freeman insisted sixteen years 
ago, in his controversy with the present occupant of the 
Oxford chair of history, that if contemporary authority 
is worth anything at all, we are bound to acknowledge 
the sterling merits of Thomas' private character. But 
Miss Lambert is satisfied with nothing less than the 
recognition of his absolute consistency even in matters 
of churchmanship. "As regards his ecclesiastical policy, 
even this underwent no real intrinsic change when 
Becket became archbishop." All the proof alleged is 
the fact that once, if not twice, during his chancellorship 
Thomas protested against a dynastic marriage that was 
contrary to the laws of the Church ; and without a word 
of evidence beyond this the case is summed up as 
follows : " In fact, allowing for the difference of cir- 
cumstances, position and responsibility, no change of 
principle can be discovered between the ecclesiastical 
policy of the chancellor and that of the archbishop." 
There were "many things that as long as he was 
chancellor he might use persuasion, counsel, diplomacy 
to prevent, or might even let be, but that once arch- 
bishop he would have to forbid" (p. 283). This 
undefined concession may be meant to cover the Battle 
Abbey dispute of 1155-1157 and the great Scutage of 
1159; but not a word is said of either. Yet in both 
cases especially in the latter the conduct of Thomas 
calls for explanation. There is no sign of "persuasion, 
counsel or diplomacy" used with a view to prevent ; and 
contemporary opinion which is a factor that cannot 
be neglected in any historical problem attributed to 
Thomas more than a passive attitude of laisser faire. 


Even Miss Lambert's "seer" felt the stubbornness of 
one historical fact, the great Scutage, and met the 
difficulty by assigning a conscientious motive for his 
hero's action : 

Becket. " Herbert, Herbert, in my chancellorship 

I more than once have gone against the Church." 

Herbert. "To please the king?" 

Becket. "Ay, and the King of kings, 

Or justice, for it seemed to me but just 
The Church should pay her scutage like the lords." 

This is a credible view of the case. It may have been 
loyalty to the principles of abstract right that led 
Thomas to initiate or second what seemed to the world 
outside an act of injustice prompted by the exigencies of 
finance. But the point at issue is not so much the 
moral aspect of the case its rights and wrongs judged 
by modern standards of policy and justice. It is rather 
the simple question, which side was Thomas as a con- 
sistent churchman intended and expected to take by his 
ecclesiastical friends and patrons ? The answer to that 
question involves the charge of inconsistency which was 
examined in the preceding chapter. Thomas lived in an 
age and was brought up in a school that regarded the 
exemption of the Church from secular jurisdiction and 
secular exaction as the two bulwarks of ecclesiastical 
independence ; and the churchmen of his day undoubt- 
edly regarded him as directly or indirectly responsible 
to a certain extent for the breach that was made in 
those defences while he was chancellor. 




IT may perhaps enhance the value of this essay to 
add some account of the biographers who came forward 
to pay their tribute to the memory of Thomas, all but 
one of them within a decade of his murder. Canon 
Robertson has collected all that is valuable of their 
personal history in his introductions to the first four 
volumes of the Materials; and the chronological order 
of their writings has been thoroughly investigated by 
Mr. Magnusson in his introduction to the second volume 
of Thomas Saga. There is little to be done therefore 
beyond summarizing their conclusions for the con- 
venience of the reader, except perhaps to note more 
particularly the nature of each biographer's connexion, 
if any, with his subject, and his acquaintance with the 
facts of Thomas' life before 1162, so far as it affects the 
value of his testimony. The order adopted is that 
worked out on chronological grounds by Mr. Magnusson, 
except that the writer known as Auctor Anonymus 
II., omitted by him as not yet identified, is here in- 
serted in the list. 

1. BENEDICT OF PETERBOROUGH was apparently the 
earliest writer of the group. After holding the office 


of chancellor or secretary to Richard archbishop of 
Canterbury, he became prior of Christ Church, Canter- 
bury, in 1175, and in 1177 was promoted to the abbacy 
of Peterborough, where he died about 1193. From the 
Quadriloffus we learn that he was with Thomas on the 
day of his death ; but there is no trace of any earlier 
connexion between the two. Benedict was responsible 
for the first collection of Miracles, which Mr. Magnusson 
dates 1171-1172 (Thomas Saga, ii. pp. Ixxii-lxxv), and 
a Passio of which some fragments are preserved in the 
Quadrilogus. The Icelandic Thomas Saga (ii. 44) credits 
him besides with a Life of Tliomas ; but this is a 
doubtful point. The writer identified with Roger of 
Pontigny, Edward Grim, and Elias of Evesham all 
assign to him only the collection of Miracula and the 
Passio ; and Benedict's work was not used in the 
compilation of the Quadrilogits until the events im- 
mediately preceding the murder. The language however 
of Thomas Saga is specific enough, and Mr. Magnusson is 
inclined to accept its statement, and assign to Benedict 
a good deal of the narrative in Thomas Saga which is 
there ascribed to prior " Robert of Cretel." Some of 
these passages e.g. the relations between Thomas and 
Theobald (i. 36), Theobald's motive in procuring the 
chancellorship for Thomas (i. 44, 46), the first dissension 
between Thomas and the king (i. 138) seem from their 
tone of positive certainty to imply a personal acquaint- 
ance with the actors and an insight into the secrets of 
the primate's household, which in Mr. Magnusson's 
opinion points to an inmate of Canterbury rather than 
an Oxford prior, as the authority for these statements. 

2. WILLIAM FITZSTEPHEN, whose Life of Thomas is 
placed by Mr. Magnusson about 1171-1172, bases his 
own claim to credibility on his intimate connexion with 


his hero. He states in his prologue that he was a 
fellow-citizen of Thomas, and a clerical member of his 
household, that he was admitted into his confidential 
service by special invitation, and acted as dictator (i.e. 
remembrancer) in his cancellaria, as subdeacon at mass 
in the chapel when his master was celebrating, and as 
clerk of the court and occasionally as advocate when his 
master sat to hear cases of law. These are ample 
credentials for the biographer of the archbishop ; but it 
is doubtful whether the first item on the list can be 
taken as a proof that Fitzstephen was ever in the service 
of the chancellor, at any rate before his consecration. 
The cancellaria may have been the office where the pri- 
mate's business was transacted (cp. p. 116). On the other 
hand, the fact that he has given us the only full and 
detailed record of Thomas' chancellorship is strongly in 
support of the view that he was officially connected with 
the chancellor. He was in close attendance on his master 
at the Council of Northampton in 1164, visited him 
once in his exile, and remained by his side at Canterbury 
on the 29th December, 1170, to the bitter end. The 
greater part of his narrative of the archbishop's, if not 
the chancellor's, career is therefore, as he says himself, 
the work of an eye-witness ; the rest (probably including 
the earlier portions of Thomas' life) he learned from 
responsible sources. Strange to say, however, though 
his biography seems to have been written among the 
very first, there is no notice of him in the contemporary 
writers either as an associate or as a biographer of 
Thomas. His name occurs nowhere, not even in Her- 
bert's Catalogus Eruditorum ; and his work was not laid 
under contribution by the compilers of the Quadrilogus. 
Various explanations of this fact have been offered. 

(1) Canon Robertson (Materials, ii. pp. xv, xvi) 


suggests that perhaps Fitzstephen had alienated the 
archbishop's extreme partisans by his indifference to the 
cause of the Church. He saved himself from exile by 
presenting to the king a conciliatory poem in Latin 
from his own pen, and apparently was employed by the 
king as an envoy to the Pope. Foss (Judges of England, 
i. 373) identifies him with the Fitzstephen who was 
appointed sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1171 and after- 
wards became an itinerant justice ; and Canon Robertson 
is inclined to explain the absolute silence of his con- 
temporaries with regard to his name and work as due 
to " their anger against him as a deserter from the 
hierarchical party to the service of the Crown." 

(2) Mr. Magnusson (vol. ii. p. Ixxix) rejects this 
explanation on the ground that the eulogistic strain of 
Fitzstephen's biography would have atoned for his own 
half-hearted allegiance to the cause of the Church. He 
prefers to suppose that Fitzstephen withheld the bi- 
ography from publication for fear that its appearance at 
a time when party feeling ran high might damage his 
own chance of promotion. If the biography was not 
given to the world until perhaps after the death of 
Henry II. in 1189, the absence of any reference to it is 
easily explained ; but this supposition, as Father Morris 
points out (p. xvii), still leaves unexplained the absolute 
silence about Fitzstephen himself and his association 
with the archbishop. 

3. JOHN OF SALISBURY'S place in the "Becket 
cycle " of biographers does not correspond either to his 
merits as a writer or to his authority as a witness. His 
intimacy with Thomas began at an earlier date than 
that of any other biographer. They were contem- 
poraries, if not acquaintances, at the university of 
Paris. They were certainly thrown together in that 


little school of the prophets which found a home under 
Theobald's roof, and which had already known Thomas 
the clerk for some six years when John came to be the 
archbishop's secretary. The acquaintance which sprang 
up there or ripened into friendship there retained its 
vigour to the end. It was kept up by correspondence 
when Thomas followed the king to France and the 
faithful John remained with the old primate at Canter- 
bury, and afterwards again during their occasional 
separation when Thomas the archbishop was himself an 
exile and a wanderer among the monasteries of the 
Continent. John's letters breathe throughout the spirit 
of true friendship, in fearless remonstrance as well as in 
helpful sympathy, and set the reader vainly longing for 
a biography of Thomas from the same pen that dealt out 
wise advice and frank rebuke with such unerring insight 
and such impartial justice. But John's contribution to 
our positive knowledge of Thomas, beyond the incidental 
allusions in their correspondence, is but slight. His 
Polycraticus a treatise on " The Triflings of Courtiers 
and tJie Footprints of Philosophers" dedicated to Thomas 
during the war of Toulouse in 1159 gives a vivid 
glimpse of the life of England as it was and as it might 
be, the sad reality of injustice and corruption in 
Church and state contrasted with the bright ideal of his 
own fancy which would have made a fitting back- 
ground for a life of the chancellor and archbishop. But 
instead of a full portrait from the master-hand we have 
but a sketch, " a succinct and brief account," as John 
calls it in his preface. It was all that he thought 
necessary. Detail was superfluous when the knowledge 
of the facts had been carried through many a channel 
over "almost all the Latin world 1 ." Fuller information 
1 Job. S. ii. 316, " ex relatione plurimorum," i.e. by oral 


on particular points of Thomas' career must be sought 
in the "great volumes written by him and about him 1 ." 
Something however of the same regret with which 
modern writers and readers accept this outline was 
already felt in John's own day. We learn that his 
contemporaries were sadly disappointed. They had 
expected more from one " who wrote in a style that 
knew no rival and who had the fullest acquaintance 
with the facts, as he had been linked to Thomas by a 
bond of friendship from his youth upwards and had 
remained his constant companion in persecution " (Auct. 
Anon. I. iv. 2). 

4. EDWARD GRIM was but a stranger brought into 
contact with the archbishop just before his murder. He 
was not a member of the archiepiscopal household or 
even a monk of Christ Church, but a secular clerk from 
Cambridge, who visited Canterbury in December, 1170, 
for the purpose of seeing the primate (Fitzst. iii. 132, 
Herb. iii. 498, 529, 530). The date of his biography of 
Thomas, which yields to none in loyal devotion to its 
hero, is uncertain. Mr. Magnusson places its terminus a 
quo in 1174, the year of Henry's penance, to which 

circulation. Auct. Anon. i. iv. 2 mentions only two written 
works, John's succinctum eloquium and the Miracula of Bene- 
dict prior of Canterbury. Benedict was made prior in 1175 ; 
John became bishop of Chartres in 1176, but is described by 
Auct. Anon. i. merely as "vir illustris." Mr. Magnusson therefore 
dates John's sketch 1175-1176. 

1 Joh. S. ii. 302, "a magnis quae ab illo et de illo scripta sunt 
voluminibus." Canon Robertson takes this to refer to a collection 
of Thomas' letters. Mr. Magnusson (Thomas Saga, ii. p. xc) 
explains it as an allusion to minutes (taken by Thomas or by 
order of Thomas) of speeches and proceedings in important 
matters. The former view seems to me to be confirmed by the 
parallel expression a few lines further on in John's preface : 
"epistolae ejus et scripta aliorum." 


Grim alludes (ii. 447), and its terminus ad quem in 1177, 
the year in which Benedict, to whom Grim refers as 
prior of Canterbury (ii. 448, 9), became abbot of 
Peterborough. Nothing further is known of Grim 
except that he was dead when Herbert compiled his 
Catalogus Eruditorum (iii. 530). Grim's personal ac- 
quaintance with the archbishop began too late for him 
to rank among the inner circle of authentic witnesses. 
His testimony is mainly given at second hand. His 
biography bears a marked resemblance in places to those 
of Garnier and Auctor Anonymus I., a resemblance more 
easily explained by the assumption that he consulted the 
one or the other than by the supposition that all drew 
independently from a common tradition ; and it is 
significant that in his own description of his editorial 
modus scribendi, Grim gives the first place to the 
information derived from Thomas' intimate acquaint- 
ances, and the second to his own immediate knowledge 
of the facts (ii. 355). 

5. AUCTOR ANONYMUS I. Such is the title which 
Canon Robertson prefixes to the more important 
of the two anonymous lives now extant, a work 
attributed by Dr. Giles to ROGER OF PONTIGNY. The 
evidence for this identification is only slight. The 
writer mentions in his preface that he ministered to the 
archbishop in his exile, and was ordained by him to the 
priesthood ; and in Thomas Froimont's composite life of 
Thomas (Giles, ii. 52) it is stated that a monk named 
Roger was attached to Thomas during his exile at 
Pontigny. Canon Robertson (vol. ii. pp. xii, xiii) gives 
various reasons for doubting this identity ; and Mr. 
Magnusson, while pointing out that the biographer was 
evidently a foreigner, to judge from his peculiar 
handling of English terms and names (Thomas Saga, ii. 


p. Ixxxiv), adopts the name Roger of Pontigny " more 
for the sake of convenience than from conviction." 
The biography is assigned by Mr. Magnusson to the year 
1175-76, on the ground that he mentions Benedict in 
his preface as prior of Canterbury, and refers to John of 
Salisbury merely as "vir illustris," not as bishop of 
Chartres, to which see he was promoted in 1176. But 
Father Morris (p. xviii) is inclined to place it a little 
later, as its writer evidently borrows from Gamier, 
whose work was not finished till 1176. 

The preface in which this anonymous biographer 
explains his motives for writing is almost as valuable as 
the life itself. He begins by remarking that it was a 
matter of regret to many that no full account of the life 
and conduct of Thomas had yet appeared. It was a 
serious want, for ignorance of the facts had given rise 
to different and even contradictory views of the man's 
real merits. John of Salisbury had given the world a 
sketch that was too brief to satisfy, and Benedict had 
only dealt with the " Passion " and the miracles that 
followed. This deficiency it was the writer's aim to 
supply by a biography in detail in which " nothing 
should find a place beyond what he himself had seen 
and heard or ascertained from trustworthy evidence of 
those who had been present on different occasions " 
(Auct. Anon. I. iv. 2). 

6. WILLIAM OF CANTERBURY, whose personality has 
only recently emerged from its confusion with that of 
William Fitzstephen, was a monk of Christ Church, 
Canterbury, one of many admitted to the monastery 
during the archbishop's exile, but the only one approved 
by the archbishop. The rest were remanded for further 
inquiry ; William alone was admitted to the diaconate 
in December 1170 (i. 119). His acquaintance with the 


primate was brief. He was in attendance upon him on 
the fatal day, but his new-born devotion was too weak 
to share his master's death. " Conscious of his sins and 
feeling unfit for martyrdom," to quote his own con- 
fession (i. 133, 134), he saved his life by flight. 
Apparently he was attached to the martyr's tomb in 
some official capacity, for he seems to have been 
entrusted with the task of receiving pilgrims and 
listening to their stories ; but the tradition which made 
him sub-prior of Christ Church is practically disproved 
by Canon Robertson (vol. i. p. xxix). William's 
tribute to his dead master consisted of two important 
works, (1) a collection of Miracles begun in 1172, 
and (2) a brief but judicious Life of TJiomas. The 
preface to this life was written after the Miracles were 
undertaken, but the date of its completion is a matter 
of conjecture. 

7. GARNIER, a clerk of Pont S. Maxence, was the 
author of a French life which seems to have been 
consulted both by Grim and Auctor Anonymus I. 
From his own pen we learn that he first wrote a 
summary of Thomas' life, which was circulated by a 
dishonest scribe before the tone of its expression here 
and there had received the necessary modifications at 
the hand of its author. He then undertook a more 
ambitious work, for which he went to Canterbury in 
1172 to collect fuller information. There he consulted 
the friends of Thomas, among them his sister Mary 
(afterwards abbess of Barking, 1173) and the prior and 
monks of Christ Church, and others who had been 
associated with him from his younger days. The 
Sermun, as Gamier calls it, was written in 1167 five- 
line stanzas, and was completed in the year 1176 
{Gamier, p. 206, ed. Hippeau). 


8. ALAN OF TEVVKESBURY is here included in the 
list as the first editor of the correspondence relating to 
Thomas. Originally a monk of Christ Church, Canter- 
bury, and afterwards canon of Benevento, he returned 
to England in 1174, became prior of Canterbury in 
1179 and in 1186 abbot of Tewkesbury, where he died 
about 1202. His Life of Thomas from January 1164 to 
January 1169 was written (1) as a supplement to John 
of Salisbury's biography, (2) as a preface to his own 
edition of 529 letters, which he had already collected 
and arranged. This collection is mentioned by Herbert 
(iii. 396) as the work of the prior of Canterbury, and 
should probably therefore be dated between 1179 and 

BETHIENSIS by Dr. Giles from the fact that the MS. is 
preserved in the archiepiscopal library at Lambeth. 
Wharton, who was librarian to Archbishop Sancroft, 
attributed this anonymous life to a monk of Canterbury, 
an eye-witness of the murder, and placed its date within 
two years of that event (Anglia Sacra, ii. 523). It 
is true that the murder is described in full detail, with 
several touches that occur in no other life, but Canon 
Robertson points out (vol. iv. p. xiv) that (1) there is 
no such claim made in the rest of the narrative, (2) the 
same prologue occurs at the head of a fragment of a 
different biography in a MS. in the Bodleian Library, 
(3) the life is more general and less circumstantial than 
its contemporaries, and seems the work of a writer not 
personally connected with the events which he is 
describing. He draws here and there from John of 
Salisbury ; but there is no indication of his date, and 
Canon Robertson inclines to place him later than 
Wharton, about 1172-74. 


10. HERBERT OP BOSHAM'S biography, painfully 
tedious as it is, and prolonged to an unconscionable 
extent by ponderous reflections on almost every other 
incident, is nevertheless valuable as the work of a man 
who had opportunities for knowing his subject scarcely 
inferior to those enjoyed by John of Salisbury and Fitz- 
stephen. He may or may not be identical with the 
Herbert on the chancellor's staff who conveyed a letter 
and an oral message from Henry II. to the Emperor (p. 76, 
note) ; but it seems certain that he was in the service of 
the chancellor. Immediately after his election as primate 
at London in May 1162, Thomas chose Herbert for his 
confidential friend and mentor, and this choice can only 
be explained by the supposition of a previous intimacy 
of the closest kind. From this day forward Herbert 
was rarely away from his master's side. He was 
present at the Councils of Tours, Clarendon, and 
Northampton, and during the time of his exile was 
either in attendance upon him or absent on missions 
undertaken on his behalf. His absence from Canterbury 
on the fatal 29th was due to the forethought of his 
archbishop, who had despatched him on an errand to 
the Continent. 

Herbert's contribution to the memory of his master 
includes (1) a Vita Thomae in six long books, with a 
seventh book or appendix entitled Catalogus Eruditorum 
Thomae, a list of the scholars and clerks, a score or so in 
number, who formed the inner circle of the primate's 
acquaintance ; (2) a Liber Melprum of practically no 
historical value, mainly a comparison between Thomas 
the " martyr miles " and his Lord " Christus Imperator." 
The date of Herbert's biography is fairly certain. He 
states himself (iii. 192) that he began the work in the 
fourteenth year after his master's death, i.e. 1184. It 


was finished before 1187; for Pope Urban III., who was 
in his earlier days one of the Eruditi and is mentioned 
in the Catalogus as " hodie totius ecclesiae rector," died 
in October 1187. Of its composition we know practically 
nothing beyond the fact that he spent some time " in 
the British world " while engaged in writing the work 
probably for the purpose of collecting materials 1 . 

It was apparently the last of the contemporary lives, 
and it breathes here and there a spirit of regretful 
disappointment. Most of his fellow-witnesses to Thomas' 
conduct and character had already departed this life, 
and he was left to mourn his own isolation. The 
primate's memory and even the relics of his person were 
already treasured and revered, but the faithful servant 
who had survived his master by half a generation was 
still in exile, neglected and ignored by the bishops and 
clergy of his native land (iii. 553). Canon Robertson 
is half inclined to see in this lament an explanation of 
Herbert's ostentatious attempts to do justice here and 
there to the motives and measures of the king. 

11. ROBERT OP CEICKLADE, who became prior of 
S. Frideswide's, Oxford, in 1154, and chancellor of 
Oxford in 1159, is nowhere mentioned by the Latin 
biographers; but he seems entitled to a place in their 
company. A letter of his to Benedict, describing the 
miraculous healing of his own leg (Benedict, Miracles, 
ii. 97-101), is given in Thomas Saga (ii. 92) as the work 
of the same prior Robert who elsewhere in the Saga is 
called Robert of Cretel, and who is credited with a 
Latin life of Thomas (T. Saga, i. 32). The date of this 

1 Herb. Lib. Mel. iii. 553, periclitor enim et peregrinor adhuc, 
sublato mihi doinino meo...adeo solus derelictus, ut orbis Britan- 
nicus, in quo, dum hanc martyris historiam scriberem, aliquandiu 
sum moratus, mihi communicare vix velit. 


life by Robert of Cretel (Cricklade) is unknown, but it 
is acknowledged by the compiler of the Saga as the 
source from which he drew several striking passages, 
e.g. (1) Thomas' escape from drowning (i. 32), (2) the 
personal relations of Thomas and Theobald (i. 36), (3) 
Thomas' devotion, almsgiving, and missions in the 
service of Theobald (i. 38), and (4) the stories told in 
illustration of the chancellor's devotion and chastity 
(i. 50 foil.). 

12. "Thomas Saga Erkibyskups" is the title 
prefixed by Mr. Magnusson to his edition of the 
Icelandic Saga, the story of Thomas the archbishop as it 
has come down to us in a manuscript nearly five centuries 
old. The history of the Thomas Saga in general has 
been worked out at length by Mr. Magnusson in a most 
interesting preface to the second volume of his edition 
(pp. vi-xxxv), which I take the liberty of summarizing 
here as follows. From the earliest times Iceland had 
been in touch with England, and from the close of .the 
eleventh century onwards the two countries were drawn 
closer and closer in peaceful intercourse. The practical 
monopoly enjoyed by English trade is marked by the 
introduction of the English yard measure about the 
year 1200. But this activity was not confined to 
commerce. English missionaries had visited Iceland 
before the Norman Conquest, and Rudolph, the Nor- 
wegian priest who founded the first Icelandic monastery, 
ended his days as abbot of Abingdon. Anglo-Saxon 
literature found its way to Iceland ; the Anglo-Saxon 
language was recognised by the Icelanders as practically 
identical with their own ; the Anglo-Saxon alphabet 
was used to supplement the Roman and the Runic 
characters when the Icelanders revised their alphabet 
early in the twelfth century; and fragments of Anglo- 


Saxon history were embodied in Sagas evidently derived 
from English sources. First one and then another 
Icelander of note visited the southern island. Thorlak, 
bishop of Skalholt 1178-1193, divided his theological 
studies between Paris and Lincoln, and returned to 
Iceland about 1161, when Thomas the chancellor was 
at the height of his fame. Thorlak's nephew Paul 
Jonsson, born in 1155, who succeeded his uncle as 
bishop of Skalholt, studied in England about 1178, 
when the memory of Thomas was still fresh and some of 
his biographies already current. Rafn SveinbjaAiarson, 
a contemporary of Thorlak and Paul, wended his way as 
a pilgrim to Canterbury in fulfilment of a vow made in 
1195 or thereabouts to "the holy bishop Thomas." Mr. 
Magnusson is of opinion that Rafn, if not Paul, must 
have brought home to Iceland materials, written or 
unwritten, for the compilation of the Saga. There are 
indications of the existence of a Thomas Saga early in 
the 13th century. At the southern see of Skalholt, 
bishop Thorlak's peculiar observance of fast-days and 
Paul's reluctance to accept the bishopric look like a 
reminiscence of incidents recorded in the contemporary 
lives of Thomas. The northern see of Holar was 
occupied from 1201 to 1237 by a bishop Gudmund by 
name who seems to have taken Thomas for his 
prototype. His masterful ways had already driven the 
poet Kolbein, who died in 1208, to compare him to 
Thomas ; and his later insistance upon clerical im- 
munities a policy new to the Icelandic episcopate 
made the comparison a commonplace in Icelandic 
tradition and literature before another generation had 
passed away. The story of Thomas' life was evidently 
familiar to the Icelanders in the earlier part of the 13th 
century. The first actual mention however of a Thomas 

R. 17 


Saga occurs in the year 1258, when the recital of the last 
days of Thomas cheered the soul of an Icelandic martyr 
on the eve of his own death. From that time onward 
proofs of the reverence with which the memory of 
Thomas was regarded come thick and fast. Vows were 
already made to him before the year 1200; but in the 
13th and 14th centuries churches were dedicated to his 
name in all parts of Iceland. 

The extant MS. of Tlwmas Saga, edited by Mr. 
Magnusson and styled "T." in his preface, has been 
assigned partly to the 14th century and partly to the 
15th; but Mr. Magnusson places the whole of it in the 
14th century. The authorship of the Saga itself is 
generally ascribed to Arngrim, abbot of Thingeyrar in 
the north of Iceland, who died in 1362. The sources 
from which it was probably compiled have been noted 
under the names of Benedict and Robert of Cricklade ; 
and the chief statements for which we are indebted to it 
alone are pointed out as they occur in the notes to this 

13. One other name is added to the list of 
biographers by Father Morris in his preface, the name 
of GERVASE of Canterbury. He wrote no biography of 
Thomas, but in his Chronicon he gives Thomas a more 
prominent place than he occupies in any other chronicle, 
and apologises for the digression on the ground of his 
personal connexion with the archbishop. He tells us in 
his Chronicle that he was admitted to Christ Church, 
Canterbury, and ordained by Thomas during the early 
days of his primacy. We are indebted to him also for 
a list of the Becket literature already in existence when 
he wrote his Chronicle, the writings of Herbert of 
Bosham, John of Salisbury, Benedict of Peterborough, 
William of Canterbury, and Alan's collection of letters. 


14. No sketch of the biographical authorities for 
the life of Thomas is complete without some notice of 
the QuadrUogus, the composite life drawn from the 
writings of John of Salisbury, Alan of Tewkesbury, 
William of Canterbury, and Herbert of Bosham, with 
the addition of Benedict of Peterborough's " Passion " 
where John of Salisbury's narrative ceases. The 
QuadrUogus exists in two separate forms. 

(1) The first QuadrUogus was compiled at the 
suggestion of Henry, abbot of Croyland, by a monk of 
Evesham, apparently named Elias. Henry lent a 
helping hand, and the work was finished about 1198 
1199. It was not printed until the close of the 17th 
century, when it was edited by Christian Wolf (Lupus) 
and published in 1682, the year after his death. This 
QuadrUogus prior was recast by Roger of Croyland at 
the request of abbot Henry, and finished about 1212- 
1213. It was never printed in its revised form, but the 
MS. is preserved in the Bodleian Library. 

(2) The second QuadrUogus, a work of later author- 
ship, was printed at Paris in 1495. The prologues of 
the two Quadriloyi are entirely different, but the 
subject-matter is on the whole identical, except that the 
second QuadrUogus contains the legend of Thomas' 
eastern origin and passages from two biographers not 
used in the earlier compilation Edward Grim and 
William Fitzstephen. 



Acre, knights of, connexion with 

S. Thomas, 10 n. 
Adam, abbot of Evesham, 167 n. 
Adelais of Blois, 93 
Adrian IV., see Popes 
Alan of Tewkesbury, 253 ; his life 

and letters of Thomas, 253, 258 
Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, 59 
Alexander III., see Popes 
Anjou, 77, 78 

Anselm, archbishop, 202, 203 
apostolicus, 179 n. 
Aquitaine, 77, 78 
Archdeacons, judicial work of, 35, 

36 ; legal training at Bologna, 37 ; 

their worldly and mercenary cha- 
racter, 36, 163, 164, 194 
Archdeaconry of Canterbury, 52-54 
Argentan, conference at, 146 
Arnulf, advocate of Stephen and 

claim at Eome, 46 ; bishop of 

Lisieux, 58; relations with Henry 

II. and Thomas, 16 
Aschetinus, prior of Leicester, 

165 n., 201 
assisa, communis, 128 
Assize, meaning of the term, 113 n; 

assize of Clarendon, 112 
Auctor Anonymus I., his identifica- 

tion with Eoger of Pontigny, 250, 

Auctor Anonymus II., Lambtthi- 
ensis, 253 

Augustinian (Austin) canons, 13 ; 
see Merton 

auxllia = "aids," in diocese of Can- 
terbury, 161-163 

Baille-hache, nickname of Thomas, 

Baldwin of Boulogne, recommends 

Thomas to Theobald, 28 
Baldwin, archdeacon of Exeter, 144 
Bartholomew, archdeacon, 170 ; 

bishop of Exeter, 171, 184, 

206, 220 
Battle Abbey, dispute about its 

charter and privileges, 105-111, 

174-179, 184-190, 235, 242 
Becket, the surname, 2, 3 ; see 

Gilbert, Thomas 
Benedict of Peterborough, his 

career, 245 ; his writings, 245, 

255, 259 
Berkhampstead, "honour "of, 139. 

141, 142 

Bermondsey, council at, 67 
Bernard, Saint, 32 n., 42 n. 



bestiae curiae, 154, 156 

Beverley, provostship, 54, 56, 165 

Bishops of the English Church, 
their political and military power, 
28, 59 ; opposition to Thomas' 
election as primate, 4, 207, 211, 
223 ; present at his consecration, 
219, 220 ; letter of remonstrance 
to archbishop Thomas, 7, 55, 
212; see Church 

Bologna, Thomas' legal studies, 
34 ; home of civil and canon 
law, 36 ; training - school for 
archidiaconate, 37 

Boso, cardinal, 43, 48 

Brittany, its relations with Henry 
II., 79, 80, 87 

Cahors, 90 

cancellaria, meaning of word, 116, 

cancellarius regis, 68 ; reginae, 68 

Canon law, in Italy, 36 ; its intro- 
duction into England, 36, 37, 54, 
234 ; its extension, 193 ; see Law 

Canterbury, traditions of the arch- 
bishopric, 202; Christ Church, 
221, 251 ; monastic, 207; election 
of Thomas by the chapter, 205, 
206 ; archbishops, Augustine, 
207; Lanfranc, 189, 202; An- 
selm, 202, 203 ; William of Cor- 
beuil, 40 n. ; Theobald, see Theo- 
bald ; Thomas, see Thomas ; 
Richard, 32 

Catalogus Eruditorum Thwiuie, 250, 
254, 255 

Celestine II., see Popes 

Chancellorship, character and 
duties of the office, 68-70; its 
rank, 67 ; its relation to bishoprics 

and archbishoprics, 196 n. ; sale- 
able under Angevin kings, 62-64, 
70 ; causes of its growth, 70 ; ele- 
vated by Thomas, 71, 72, 196 n., 
238 ; official allowance of chan- 
cellor, 164 ; question of his equi- 
table jurisdiction, 119, 120 ; 
chancellor and his clerks at the 
Exchequer, 123-126; the chan- 
cellorship in Germany and Italy, 
195 n. 

Chancery, Court of, 115, 120, 121 

Charters, municipal, London, 9 ; 
provincial towns, 101 ; monastic, 
Battle Abbey, 105, 106, 174, 175, 

Chichester, see Hilary 

Chinon, 78 

Chronicon de Hello, 188 

Church of England, its political 
influence during the anarchy, 
26, 27, 28,59, 60 ; its independent 
jurisdiction, 35, 36, 192-195, 234, 
239 ; its relations with Rome, 
39-52, 60, 234 ; its prospects on 
Henry II.' a accession, 60, 61, 74, 
75, 154 

Clarendon, Assize, 112; Constitu- 
tions, 122 

Clergy of the English Church, low 
standard of morality, 193, 216 ; 
side by side with character and 
learning, 32, 166, 227 ; clergy of 
Canterbury, their opposition to 
Thomas, 207, 211, 223; their 
remonstrance with archbishop 
Thomas, 7, 55, 212 

clericus cancellarii, 124, 125 

Conan of Brittany, 87 

Conrad, bishop of Wurzburg, 20 n. 

Constance, sister of Louis VII., 88 



Council, the national, 71, 101 
Councils ; Bermondsey, 67 

Colchester, 106, 178 

London, 41-42 

NeufmarchS, 167 

Northampton, 141-143, 150 

Eeims, 42-44, 48 

Westminster, 163 n. 

Winchester (synod), 26 
Curia, the great, 71, 101 
Curia Regis, 71, 72 ; its justiciars 

and its work, 101-105, 120 ; trial 

of Battle Abbey case, 110 ; the 

chancellor at the Curia, 110, 111 ; 

Council of Northampton, 143 

David, bishop of Menai, 220 n. 
Dialogus de Scaccario, 102 n. 
Durham, bishop of, 194 

Eleanor of Aquitaine, divorced from 
Louis VII., 77 ; married to Henry 
II., 77 ; her claim to Toulouse, 88 

Elias of Evesham, 259 

England, anarchy under Stephen, 
59, 60; restoration of law and 
order, 97, 98 ; fusion of Norman 
and English races, 6, 118, 239 

Ernulf, secretary to Thomas, 169 

Eugenius III., see Popes 

Eustace, Master, recommends 
Thomas to Theobald, 28 

Eustace, son of Stephen ; his coro- 
nation forbidden by the Pope, 
45-48 ; Thomas' share in the 
matter, 45, 48-52 

Everlin of Liege, fellow student of 
Thomas, 19, 20 

Exchequer, Court of, 101 ; its 
barons, 102 ; the chancellor and 
itsKolls, 123-126; its work, 103, 

126-131 ; Black Book of Exche- 
quer, 138 

Exeter, see of, 140, 170, 171 
Eye, "honour" of, 139, 141 

Falaise, 197 

Fitzstephen, William, his official 
connexion with Thomas, 115, 
246 ; at Northampton, 141, 246 ; 
eyewitness of Thomas' death, 14, 
246 ; his relations to the Church 
and the court party, 247 ; his life 
of Thomas, 246, 247 

Flemish mercenaries, expelled from 
England, 92 n., 97 

Foliot, see Gilbert 

France, kingdom of, its relations 
with England, 77; with Nor- 
mandy, 79, 80, 91, 93; with 
Toulouse, 88 

Frederic Barbarossa, Emperor, in 
communication with Henry II., 
76 ; his chancellor-archbishop, 
195 n. 

Gamier of Pont S. Maxence, his 
French life of Thomas, 252 

Gascony, scene of Thomas' cam- 
paign, 90, 91 

Geoffrey of Anjou, at war with 
Henry II., 78, 157 n.; earl of 
Nantes, 79 ; his death, 79 

Gervase of Canterbury, ordained 
by Thomas, 258 ; his Chronicon, 

Gilbert Becket, father of Thomas, 
2 ; Norman by birth, 5, 6, 29 ; 
a merchant, 7, 8 ; legend of his 
Eastern travels, 9-11 ; his hospi- 
tality, 9, 16 ; story of his visit to 
Merton, 15 ; loss of wealth, 23 ; 



recommends Thomas to Theo- 
bald, 29 

Gilbert Foliot, bishop of Hereford, 
208, 220, 223 ; declines charge of 
see of London, 172, 173 ; bishop 
of London, 208 n. ; leader of 
English clergy in opposition to 
Thomas the archbishop, 7, 212, 
213 ; his assertion that Thomas 
bought the chancellorship, 62-65, 
201 ; his view of the scutage, 
159 ; of Thomas' procedure at 
Northampton, 145-147 

Gilds, in English towns, 100, 101 n. 

Gilo, archdeacon of Eouen, 167 

Gisors, 84, 86, 91 

Godfrey, bishop of Llanelly, 220 

Gratian of Bologna, 36 ; his codifi- 
cation of canon law, 37 

Grim, Edward, his connexion with 
Thomas, 249 ; his life of Thomas, 

Gudmund, bishop of Holar, Ice- 
land, 257 

Guido, cardinal, 47 

Hastings, deanery, 139, 164 
Henry of Blois, bishop of Win- 
chester, papal legate, 26, 28, 60 ; 
conflict with Theobald, 40 ; his 
ecclesiastical projects, 40 ; loses 
the legatio, 39-41 ; his castles, 59 ; 
his share in Thomas'promotion to 
the chancellorship, 57, 58 ; to the 
primacy, 208, 209, 216, 223, 224 ; 
requests release of Thomas from 
secular obligations, 140, 144, 208 ; 
consecrates Thomas, 219-221 ; 
supports him at Northampton, 
143, 151 
Henry II., count of Anjou, king of 

England ; his accession secured 
by Theobald and Thomas, 28, 
50, 51, 54 ; recognises services of 
Thomas, 57 ; his policy in Church 
and state suspected by Theobald, 
60, 61 ; plans of reform, 67 ; 
personal relations with Thomas 
the chancellor, 72-74 ; his gene- 
rosity to the Merton canons, 14 ; 
his position on the Continent, 
77 ; campaign against Geoffrey, 
78 ; policy in France, 78-80 ; 
marriage alliance with Louis 
VH., 84-87; campaign of Tou- 
louse, 87-89 ; of Normandy, 91 ; 
treaty of peace, 93 ; suppression 
of anarchy in England, 96-99 ; 
revival of judicature, 104 ; Battle 
Abbey case, 105-111, 174-179, 
184-187, 190 ; legal reforms, 121, 
122 ; reasons for offering Thomas 
the primacy, 192, 195 ; impatient 
of ecclesiastical insubordination, 
193, 195 ; his influence on the 
election, 206, 211 ; prosecution 
of Thomas at Northampton, 141- 

Henry, son of Henry II., betrothed 
to Margaret of France, 80, 84, 85, 
93, 201 ; educated in chancellor's 
household, 134 ; homage of nobles 
secured by Thomas, 197 n. ; pre- 
sent at Thomas' election, 141, 
208, 222; at his consecration, 
220, 221 

Henry, earl of Essex, constable, 90, 
106, 109 ; itinerant justice, 113 

Henry, abbot of Croyland, 259 

Henry Murdac, abbot of Fountains, 
archbishop of York, 43, 44, 46, 49 

Henry of Pisa, cardinal, papal 



legate, 93 ; his share in Thomas' 
promotion to the primacy, 198 n., 
199, 220, 222 

Herbert of Bosham, in the service 
of the chancellor, 76 n., 254 ; 
chosen to be Thomas the arch- 
bishop's mentor, 217, 254 ; his 
close attendance on the arch- 
bishop, 141, 254 ; his story of 
the king's offer of the primacy, 
197-199; and of Thomas' re- 
luctance, 204 ; his life of Thomas, 
254, 255 

Hilary, bishop of Chichester, his 
conflict with the abbot of Battle, 
105-109, 174-176 ; his share in 
the promotion of Thomas to the 
primacy, 206, 220, 223 

Historia Pontificalis, 45, 48, 50 

homines, meaning of the term, 
114 n. 

honores, vacant fiefs, 139 n. 

Honorius III., see Popes 

Hugh, archbishop of Eouen, 167, 

Hugh, dean of London, 173 

Huit-deniers, see Osbern 

Iceland, its early intercourse with 
England, 256 : Icelandic visitors 
in England, 257 ; story of Thomas 
soon familiar in Iceland, 257, see 
Thomas Saga 

Innocent II., see Popes 

Jocelin, bishop of Salisbury, 220 n. 

John of Canterbury, member of 
Theobald's household, 32 ; trea- 
surer of York, 195 

John of Salisbury, student at Paris, 
20, 21 ; contemporary of Thomas, 

21, 247; introduction to service 
of Theobald, 32, 248 ; his Poly- 
craticus, 88, 248 ; his Latin 
poems, 116, 117, 119 ; close 
correspondence with the chancel- 
lor, 248 ; requests the chancellor's 
intercession, 169 ; Theobald's 
right hand, 182 ; sometimes 
uncertain of Thomas, 140, 170, 
183; staunch defender of Thomas' 
reputation, 116, 117, 144, 152, 
159; his life of Thomas, 248, 
249, 259 

Jury, presentment by, 122 

Justices, itinerant, under Henry I. , 
111 ; under Henry II., 112-114 

Justiciar, chief, 67, 69 ; see Kichard 
de Luci, Eobert of Leicester 

Justiciars of the Curia Regis, 103 

L'Aigle, see Richer 

Lambeth, conference at, 174, 175, 

Lanfranc, archbishop, 189, 202 

Law, canon and civil, 36 ; in Italy 
and England, 36-38 ; fusion of 
Norman and English law, 118 ; 
competition between canon and 
common law, 193, 234 

legatio, see Papacy 

liberatio, 170 n. 

Lincoln, gilds, 101 ; bishop of Lin- 
coln, 59, 173, 194, 220 ; his juris- 
diction, 113 n. ; Thomas' prefer- 
ment there, 53 ; his influence, 

London, its sheriffs, 9 ; its churches 
and schools, 15, 16 ; commerce, 
5 ; recreations, 16 ; rank of its 
citizens, 17 ; their influence in 
national affairs, 25, 26 ; fires in 



city, 1, 23 ; Thomas' London 
preferment, 53 ; administration 
of see of London, 171 ; its privi- 
leges, 218 ; see Gilbert Becket, 
Eicbard de Belmeis 

London, 78 

Louis VII. of France, relations 
with Henry II., 77, 79, 80 ; witb 
Toulouse, 88-90; war with Henry 
II., 91 ; treaty, 93 ; see France, 

Luci, see Richard 

Lucius II., see Popes 

Ludolf, archbishop of Magdeburg, 
contemporary of Thomas at 
Paris, 20 

Maine, 77, 78 

Malcolm, king of Scotland, 88 
Mans, Le, bishop of, 167 
Margaret of France, daughter of 

Louis VII., betrothed to young 

Henry, 80, 84, 85 ; married, 93, 

200 ; see Henry 
Mary of Boulogne, abbess of Rom- 

sey, her marriage opposed by 

Thomas, 94, 161, 235, 242; see 

Mary, sister of Thomas, abbess of 

Barking, 252 
Matthew of Flanders, his marriage 

with Mary of Boulogne, 94, 95; 

see Mary 
Matilda, Empress, mother of Henry 

II., her opposition to Thomas' 

election to the primacy, 212 
Matilda (Mahalt, Machilde), mother 

of Thomas, 5 ; his pious training, 

12 ; her death, 22 ; see Gilbert, 

Roesa, Thomas 
Merton, house of Austin canons, 

13 ; Thomas at school there, 
13-15 ; enriched by the king at 
the chancellor's suggestion, 14, 
166 ; Thomas' admission to the 
monastic order, 216 n. 

Mirabeau, 78 

Mont S. Michel, 87 

Nantes, 79, 80, 87 

Neufchatel, 86 

Neufle, 86 

Neufmarche, 167 

Nicolas de Sigillo, 106, 163 n. 

Nicolas, bishop of Llandaff, 220 n. 

Nicolas, archdeacon of London, 

167, 173 
Nigel, bishop of Ely, treasurer, 

65 n., 99, 102, 220 
Normandy, 77, 79, 84, 85, 91, 93 
Normans, fusion with English, 6, 

118 n., 239 
Norway, relations with England, 

76 ; with Iceland, 256 ; reception 

of Norwegian embassy by Thomas, 

Nottingham, its gild and charter, 


Osbern Huit-deniers, 23 ; Thomas 
in his service, 23-25 

Otford, living of, 44, 53 

Oxford, its gild, 101 ; the univer- 
sity, 22 n., 255 ; Vacarius and 
the civil law, 36 

Palestinian origin of Thomas, a 
later fiction, 9-11 

Papacy, its claims in England, 39, 
52, 178, 234; appeals made to 
Rome, 40, 42, 60; papal lega- 
tion, 39-42 ; see Henry of Blois, 
Thomas, Theobald, Popes 



Paris, Thomas' student-days, 18- 
22 ; the chancellor's visit as am- 
bassador, 80-82 ; Henry's visit, 
84, 87 

Patronage, Church, the chancellor's 
influence, 164-166, 235 

patronus, 115, 116 

Paul, bishop of Skalholt, Iceland, 

per dona, 128 ; the chancellor's 
share in the granting of perdona 
at the Exchequer, 128-131 

peremptorim, 175, 176, 184-187 

persolta (prosolta), 127 n., see solta 

Pevensey, 18, 22 

Philip, bishop of Bayeux, 58 

Philip, count of Flanders, 94 

Pipe Bolls, 102 n., Ill, 112; im- 
portance of accuracy, 123 ; me- 
thod of compilation, 124-126 

Pluralism, in feudal and ecclesias- 
tical benefices, 56 n. ; Thomas 
and his pluralities, 55, 165, 234 ; 
see Patronage 

Polycraticus, 248; see John of 

Pontigny, 250 

Pont PEveque, 33 n. ; see Boger 

Popes : Adrian IV., 106, 189 
Alexander HI., 43, 167, 178 
Celestine II., 40, 41, 47, 48 
Eugenius III., 42-44, 47, 48, 50, 


Gregory IX., 190 
Honorius III., 190 
Innocent II., 40, 41, 46-48, 


John XXII., 221 n. 
Lucius n., 41, 47, 48 
Octavian, 167 
Urban III., 255 

Quadrilogus, 11, 258 ; the first, 
259 ; the second, 259 

Bafn Sveinbjarnarson, 257 

Balph the physician, 106 

Balph of London, 30 

Balph de Diceto, 141, 147 

Banulf de Glanville, 122 n. 

Baymond V., Count of Toulouse, 

Beims, see Councils 

Bichard de Belmeis, bishop of Lon- 
don, 107, 171 

Bichard Fitz Nigel, bishop of Lon- 
don, author of Dialogue de Scac- 
cario, 102 n. 

Bichard, chaplain to Theobald, 32 ; 
archbishop of Canterbury, 32 

Bichard, bishop of Chester, 220 n. 

Bichard de Luci, justiciar, 65, 99, 
113, 139, 194; his share in 
Thomas' promotion to the pri- 
macy, 140, 206, 214, 221 

Bicher de PAigle, guest of Gilbert 
Becket, 16; intimacy with Tho- 
mas, 17, 18 

Bobert, bishop of Bath, 220 n. 

Bobert of Cretel (Cricklade), author 
of Latin life of Thomas, 245, 255, 

Bobert, bishop of Exeter, 170 

Bobert Fitzharding, 170 

Bobert, earl of Leicester, justiciar, 
99, 107, 221; itinerant justice, 
113, 114, 126 

Bobert, bishop of Lincoln, 173, 194, 

Bobert of Melun, lecturer at Paris, 
21; bishop of Hereford, 21, 166 

Bobert, prior of Merton, 13, 15 ; 
confessor to Thomas, 13, 230 n.; 



attached to Thomas the arch- 
bishop, 13, 14; see Merton 

Robert of Neubourg, 85 

Roesa (Matilda), mother of Thomas, 

Roesa, sister of Thomas, 5 n. 

Roger, bishop of Chester, 46, 48 n. 

Roger, bishop of Ely, 59 

Roger de Pont 1'Eveque, member 
of Theobald's household, 32 ; 
jealous of Thomas, 33 ; arch- 
deacon of Canterbury, 34 n., 
42 n., 181 n. ; Stephen's envoy to 
Rome, 50; archbishop of York, 
54, 194, 219 

Roger of Pontigny, 250 ; his identi- 
fication with Auctor Anonymus 
I., 250, 251 

Roger, bishop of Salisbury, 59, 
102 n. 

Rolls, of Chancery, 121; of Ex- 
chequer, see Pipe Rolls 

Rome, Thomas' missions, 38, 41 n., 
44, 49, 50; trial of Stephen's 
title to the Crown, 46-48 

rotulus de cancellaria, 123, 124 

rotulm de thesauro, 124 

Rudolf of Norway, abbot of Abing- 
don, 256 

Saga, 256; see Iceland, Thomas 


St Edmund's, Bury, 106, 110 
scaccarium, 123; see Exchequer 
scriptor cancellariae, 124, 125 
Scutage, the first, 78, 156; the 
great scutage, 91 n.; anti-feudal, 
99; exacted from the Church, 
158, 159 ; attributed to the chan- 
cellor, 100, 158-161, 242 

Seneschal of France, 87 

solta, 127 n. 

Stigand, bishop of Chichester, 189 

Stephen of Blois, king of England, 
26; anarchy of his reign, 27, 28; 
his conflict with Theobald and 
the Pope, 42, 44, 51; unable to 
secure coronation of his son 
Eustace, 45; discussion of his 
title at Rome, 46, 47, 50 

Theobald, archbishop of Canter- 
bury, his early Norman associa- 
tions, 6, 29 ; his political in- 
fluence in Stephen's reign, 28 ; 
admits Thomas to his service, 
28-31 ; curia Theobaldi, the 
home of learning, 32; his re- 
liance on Thomas in ecclesiastical 
affairs, 34, 228 n. ; patron of 
canou law in England, 36, 37; 
papal legate, 39-41 ; at the Coun- 
cil of Reims, 42-44; refusal to 
crown Eustace, 45; loyalty to 
Rome, 49; persecuted by Stephen, 
51 ; appoints Thomas archdeacon 
of Canterbury, 53, 54; acts as 
regent during interregnum, 34, 
54, 192 n. ; introduces Thomas 
to king Henry, 57, 58; his mo- 
tives in procuring Thomas the 
chancellorship, 58-62, 152, 153; 
persuades Thomas to retain it, 
75 ; his share in the Battle Abbey 
case, 107, 109, 174, 175, 177, 
235; disappointed in Thomas, 
179-183, 235, 237 ; prohibits 
auxilia in his diocese, 161, 162 ; 
his death, 184, 191 

Thomas of London, date and place 



of his birth, 1, 2; the surname 
Becket, 2-4 ; the prefix a, 4 n. ; 
nationality of his parents, 4-6; 
their social position, 7, 8; the 
Saracen legend, 9-11 ; miraculous 
element in his biographers, 11 ; 
his education, at home, 12 ; at 
Merton, 13-15 ; at the London 
schools, 15, 16 ; his intimacy 
with Eicher de PAigle, 16, 17 ; 
escape from drowning, 17 ; fond- 
ness for country life, 18 ; student 
days at Paris, 18-22 ; enters ser- 
vice of Osbern and the sheriffs 
of London, 23-26 ; connexion be- 
tween municipal and national 
politics, 26-28 ; his character at 
this period, 226, 227 ; introduction 
to Theobald, 28-30; his own mo- 
tives for the step, 30, 31; com- 
petition and promotion at the 
primate's court, 32, 227 ; rivalry 
of Roger, 33; services rendered 
to Theobald, 34, 152, 228 n. ; 
study of canon and civil law at 
Bologna and Auxerre, 34-38 ; 
relations with Rome, 38-52; 
transference of papal legation to 
Theobald, 39-42; attendance at 
Council of Reims, 42-44; papal 
veto on Eustace's coronation, 
45-52; Thomas' ordination, 52; 
his preferments, 53-56, 139 ; 
archdeacon of Canterbury, 53, 
54; introduction to king Henry 
II., 57, 58 ; accused of purchasing 
the chancellorship, 62-64; date 
of his appointment as chancellor, 
65-67 ; his extension of the 
chancellorship, 71, 72, 196 n., 

238 ; his relations with the king, 
72-74, 154, 155, 159 n., 160; with 
the court, 74, 75, 155 n.; his 
connexion with foreign affairs, 
76, 77; campaign against Geof- 
frey, 78 ; embassy to Louis VII. 
at Paris, 80-87, 134, 135; cam- 
paign of Toulouse, 87-90, 135, 
136; in Normandy, 91, 92; ne- 
gotiation of treaty, 93 ; his oppo- 
sition to the Flemish marriage, 
94, 95; his share iu the sup- 
pression of anarchy at home, 
95-99; municipal charters, 100, 
101 ; his judicial work, in the 
Battle Abbey case, 105-111 ; as 
an itinerant justice, 111-115, 
121 ; no separate equitable juris- 
diction of Chancery as yet, 115- 
121 ; John of Salisbury's eulogy 
on his justice, 116-U9 ; his 
share in Henry's legal reforms 
uncertain, 121, 122 ; his place at 
the Exchequer, T23-126 ; exam- 
ples of transactions there, 126, 
127 ; the granting of perdona, 
128-131 ; his stewardship over 
royal revenues, 132 ; his ex- 
penditure, 133-138 ; his hospita- 
lity, 133, 136-138; his fleet, 
134 ; his income, 138-140 ; the 
release from secular obligations, 
140, 220 n. ; challenged at North- 
ampton, 141-144 ; its meaning 
and validity, 144-149 ; his fi- 
nancial integrity, 138, 150-152; 
ecclesiastical purpose of his pro- 
motion to the chancellorship, 61, 
62, 153, 154; testimony of his 
biographers as to its fulfilment, 



154, 15-5 ; financial oppression of 
the Church, the chancellor and 
the scutage, 156-161, 243; the 
archdeacon and the "second 
aids," 161-164; his disposal of 
Church patronage, 164-166 ; a 
friend to clergy in distress, 167- 
169 ; affairs of see of Exeter, 
170 ; London, 171-173 ; his ec- 
clesiastical views, 234, 235, 241- 
243 ; Battle Abbey case, 174-178, 
186-190, 235 ; personal relations 
with archbishop Theobald, 179- 
184, 235 ; offer of the primacy, 
197, 198 ; his reluctance to 
accept, 199-205 ; delay in the 
appointment, 202 n. ; his election 
at Canterbury, 206 ; confirmed 
at Westminster, 207 ; the Saga 
version of the election, 222-224 ; 
opposition of the clergy, 208-216 ; 
journey of the archbishop-elect 
to Canterbury, 216-218 ; ordained 
priest, 218 ; his consecration, 
218-221 ; resignation of the 
chancellorship, 196 n., 224 n. ; 
character of the chancellor, 226- 
239; his chastity, 229 ; his secret 
asceticism, 231 ; his devotions, 
231, 232 ; the question of his in- 
consistency, 233-238, 241-243 

Thomas Froimont, 250 

Thomas Saga, Icelandic life of 
Thomas, its history, 257, 258 ; 
its sources, 245, 255 ; its date, 258 

Thorlak, bishop of Skalholt, Ice- 
land, 257 

Toulouse, campaign of, 87-90, 159 

Tower of London, 139 ; repaired by 
Thomas, 142 

Towns, English, their gilds and 
charters, 100, 101 ; see London 

Trinity Sunday, festival, instituted 
by Thomas, 221 n. 

Ulger, bishop of Anger, champion 
of Empress Matilda, 46, 47 

Vacarius, lectures on Roman civil 

law at Oxford, 36 
Vexin, its fortresses, 79, 80, 86, 93, 

Vezelay, 212 

Wales, campaigns of Henry II., 78, 
157 n. ; Welsh bishops, 220 n. ; 
Welsh incursions, 197 

Walter, abbot of Battle, 105-109, 
174-176, 206 

Walter, brother of Theobald, arch- 
deacon of Canterbury, 33 ; bishop 
of Kochester, 162, 171, 206, 218, 

Warren, Fitzgerald, 106 

Westminster, election of Thomas, 
207, 211, 214 n., 215, 216 ; Coun- 
cil, 163 n. 

Wido de la Val, 83 

William, brother of Henry II., 
95 n., 106 

William, Fitzstephen, see Fitz- 

William, abbot of Ramsey, 166 

William, archbishop of Canter- 
bur y, 40 n. 

William, archbishop of York, 42, 

William of Pavia, cardinal legate, 

William, bishop of Norwich, 220 

270 INDEX. 

William of Canterbury, his con- and official, 128 ; writs of per- 

nexion with Thomas, 251, 252; dona, 128-131 

his Miracles and Life of Thomas, 

252, 259 York, 171 ; criminous clergy in the 

William of Ypres, 97 diocese, 193 ; refusal of allegiance 

Writs, royal, 69, 120, 125 ; original to Canterbury, 219 



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